Dr. Gigerenzer started with a quote “In the Western world, we have taught most citizens to read and write, but have fallen short of teaching them to understand risks.” If patients and doctors do not understand risks, informed decision making is, more than ever, illusory. There is a significant lack of efficient training in risk communication in medical schools and the educational system
in general. Deception often begins with the press and scientific journals. Wrong (risk) information (overstating risk and understating click here harm) can lead to wrong policies and unnecessary treatment interventions. Misinterpretation of statistical risks can, thus, cause harm, more than benefit. Dr. Gigerenzer illustrated the misperception of the public and of physicians, showing data from prostate (PSA) and breast cancer (mammography)
screening programs. selleck kinase inhibitor Overall, these programs have achieved little or no reduction in mortality rates from these specific cancer types, but, as Dr. Gigerenzer showed in his slides, people still believe in this potential by attending those screening programs. The conclusion Dr. Gigerenzer drew was that no information can therefore even mean “better” information—“less is more”. In medical care, the communication of natural frequencies instead of conditional probabilities, of mortality rates instead of 5-years survival rates, and of absolute risks instead of relative risks, would greatly improve the implementation and effectiveness of necessary prevention strategies and also reduce psychological and, sometimes also, physical harm to patients. Kai Insa Schneider (Hannover Medical School, Germany) reported results from a comprehensive
literature review (1990–2011) on the subject of compliance among patients and unaffected persons following genetic testing. The review, which is published in this issue (Schneider and Schmidtke 2013), focuses on the following three questions: (1) Is there a difference in the compliance between persons (e.g., Isotretinoin colon or breast cancer patients or their immediate unaffected relatives) who received a positive genetic test result as against persons who received a negative test result from genetic testing? (2) Is adherence to doctor’s recommendations (e.g., intake of medication or behavioral changes concerning, for example, physical activity or diet) influenced by genetic testing? (3) Is there a difference between genetic versus non-genetic risk information with regard to their effect on patients’ compliance? More than 400 publications were screened, of which 290 were taken into consideration for evaluation according to the abovementioned criteria. Individuals (patients and non-affected relatives at elevated genetic risk) who received a HNPCC positive test result showed greater compliance with regular cancer screening compared to individuals in whom no mutation could be detected.