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Putting risk in perspective: Do people make better decisions when they understand average risk?
Date:12/13/2007

ANN ARBOR, Mich. If there were a pill that would cut your risk of breast cancer in half, would you take it" What if you were told your risk of breast cancer was already below average"

In a newly published survey, women who were told their risk of breast cancer was above average were more likely to endorse taking the hypothetical pill than women who were told their risk was below average. The above average group was also more likely to believe that the pill significantly reduced breast cancer risk even though both groups were told the pill would cut their risk of breast cancer in half.

Researchers from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center surveyed 249 random women in a hospital cafeteria. Participants were given a scenario in which their own risk of breast cancer was 6 percent. Then, half of the women were told the average womans risk of breast cancer was 12 percent; the other half were told the average risk was 3 percent.

Both groups were told in the hypothetical scenario that there was a pill that would reduce their breast cancer risk to 3 percent, but it caused side effects including hot flashes in most women, with a small risk of cataracts, stroke or heart attack. They were then asked to say if they would take the pill, given their risk of breast cancer.

No matter what their decision, 62 percent of the women said the average risk information was helpful in making a decision about whether to take the drug.

But, the study authors contend, this influence could be dangerous. After all, if a prevention strategy reduces a persons risk by half, does it matter if others receive more or less benefit"

Whats really important is to focus on your risk and the benefits you could get from a treatment. Knowing how ones own risk compared to the average womans risk actually changed peoples decisions. Its very worrisome that this piece of information had an influential impact on a womans perceptions of
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Contact: Nicole Fawcett
nfawcettt@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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