More nonsense from epidemiology?

2015 June 10
by Daniel Lakeland

My wife sent me a link to an article about birth-month vs disease risk. This is a study out of Columbia! too bad they didn’t go across campus to talk to Andrew.

Anyway you see things like: “compare[ed]…more than 1600 medical conditions… and found 55 diseases that correlated with specific birth month”.

That’s 1600 conditions times 12 different possible birth months, a total of 19200 comparisons! And they only found 55 spurious results??? Surely they could have pumped it up a bit more than that!

Note that the author says “we found significant associations”. This is probably another one of those cases where significant doesn’t mean what you think it means. Statistically significant, at the p=0.05 level or some similar thing, he later says “the risk related to birth month is relatively minor when compared to more influential variables like diet and exercise.”

No doubt there are diseases where in your first year exposure to sunlight, or diet differences between seasons, or air pollution, or other affects change your lifetime risk of something or other, maybe allergies, asthma, diabetes, leukemia, whatever. But this study smells pretty fishy and I think I can even see the tacklebox from here….

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