Study analyzes benefits of tracking devices for auto insurance

The virtual black box of the automotive set, whether it's vehicle plug-in technology or merely a cellphone app while motoring, may lower insurance rates for many drivers. But a new business study involving Washington University ...

For its health and yours, keep the cat indoors

At least one running argument among cat lovers is now over: Whiskers, Lucy and Tigger are definitely better off staying indoors, scientists reported Wednesday.

Firms obscure bad news in financial reports, study suggests

Firms that publish complex or ambiguous annual reports might be trying to mask poor performance and could be inadvertently signalling a crash in their stock price, according to new research from the University of Alberta.

Can dog show judges spot risky head shape?

Breed show judges could improve dogs' health by using their ability to detect subtle differences in head shapes of Cavalier King Charles spaniels, a new study by the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Surrey ...

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Risk factor

A risk factor is a variable associated with an increased risk of disease or infection. Risk factors are correlational and not necessarily causal, because correlation does not imply causation. For example, being young cannot be said to cause measles, but young people are more at risk as they are less likely to have developed immunity during a previous epidemic.

Risk factors are evaluated by comparing the risk of those exposed to the potential risk factor to those not exposed. Let's say that at a wedding, 74 people ate the chicken and 22 of them were ill, while of the 35 people who had the fish or vegetarian meal only 2 were ill. Did the chicken make the people ill?

So the chicken eaters' risk = 22/74 = 0.297 And non-chicken eaters' risk = 2/35 = 0.057.

Those who ate the chicken had a risk over five times as high as those who did not, suggesting that eating chicken was the cause of the illness. Note, however, that this is not proof. Statistical methods would be used in a less clear cut case to decide what level of risk the risk factor would have to present to be able to say the risk factor is linked to the disease (for example in a study of the link between smoking and lung cancer). Even then, no amount of statistical analysis could prove that the risk factor causes the disease; this could only be proven using direct methods such as a medical explanation of the disease's roots.

The earliest use of risk factor analysis dates back to Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine (1020s), though the term "risk factor" was first coined by heart researcher Dr. Thomas R. Dawber in a landmark scientific paper in 1961, where he attributed heart disease to specific conditions (blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking).

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