Scientific standards in epidemiologic studies of the menace of daily life

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Science  02 Dec 1988:
Vol. 242, Issue 4883, pp. 1257-1263
DOI: 10.1126/science.3057627


Many substances used in daily life, such as coffee, alcohol, and pharmaceutical treatment for hypertension, have been accused of "menace" in causing cancer or other major diseases. Although some of the accusations have subsequently been refuted or withdrawn, they have usually been based on statistical associations in epidemiologic studies that could not be done with the customary experimental methods of science. With these epidemiologic methods, however, the fundamental scientific standards used to specify hypotheses and groups, get high-quality data, analyze attributable actions, and avoid detection bias may also be omitted. Despite peer-review approval, the current methods need substantial improvement to produce trustworthy scientific evidence.

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