You don't need to ask the New York Times, as one can see the spittle sprayed across the pages of this article by John Allen Paulos, a professor of mathematics ("gasp! a professor! let us bow to the High Priest!") at Temple University.
His venom is directed at the female gender, who are apparently not smart enough - or maybe just too emotional - to understand the deeper nuances of the recent announcement by the government task force that mammograms are now "unnecessary" until age 50 or so (depending on prevailing economic conditions, I suppose).
Let's sample some of the professor's statement, just to get a feel for the oozing contempt he has for the female of our species:
Applying it to the contention that more screening is always better leads us to note that if screening catches the breast cancers of some asymptomatic women in their 40s, then it would also catch those of some asymptomatic women in their 30s. But why stop there? Why not monthly mammograms beginning at age 15?
Did anyone suggest that? Ever? So why is our esteemed professor putting words into the mouths of the female gender?
The arithmetic may be trivial, but the answer is decidedly counterintuitive and hence easy to reject or ignore. Most people don’t naturally think probabilistically, nor do they respond appropriately to very large or very small numbers. For many, the only probability values they know are “50-50” and “one in a million.”
Get that? Your small mind can only conceive of two numbers; you need to rely on folks like him, or the government, to explain what everything else means. Don't worry, we'll use small words, in the meantime just go back to your reality-TV and middle class squalor...
Hey - just relax, says our esteemed mathematician - the truth is you're going to die anyway; all early screening does is give you the perception that you're going to live longer:
Since we calculate the length of survival from the time of diagnosis, ever more sensitive screening starts the clock ticking sooner. As a result, survival times can appear to be longer even if the earlier diagnosis has no real effect on survival.
He gives no evidence that the earlier diagnosis has no effect on survival; but one can guarantee that at least some of those diagnosed early have their lives saved. To those folks, the survival rate is 100%. In other words, regardless of methodology, early mammograms do create a longer and higher survival rate. Perceptually speaking, the "death rate" from breast cancer will increase, and the survival time will shorten, under socialized medicine. Is this the type of story the Times wants to tell about health care reform?
This nasty article also shows what happens when you take the interpersonal relationship of the doctor and patient and insert a bureaucrat - or an ivory-tower math professor - into the middle. Your life becomes "statistically insignificant". Tell that to the kids who will have to grow up without a mother, so that the Democrats, liberals, and the media can feel better about themselves by "reforming" health care.
One wonders - if we were talking about testicular cancer, if the good professor would be so sanguine....