Using big data to combat catastrophes

In March 1989, a tripped circuit in the Hydro-Québec power grid left 6 million people without electricity. A week earlier, an unusually harsh snowstorm had strained the region; the day before, a solar flare and accompanying ...

Bartonella bacteria found in hemangiosarcoma tumors from dogs

Researchers from North Carolina State University have found a very high prevalence of Bartonella bacteria in tumors and tissues—but not blood samples—taken from dogs with hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessels. ...

India leads world in pollution linked deaths: study

India leads the world in pollution-linked deaths followed by China and Nigeria, according to a report published Wednesday that estimated the global impact of contaminants in the air, water and workplace.

Computer video simulation can limit flooding

Floods are expensive and at times dangerous. But what if a computer disaster simulation game could show politicians and local people what potential floods in their town would look like?

Prisons are not the answer to preventing crime

Each day in the United States and Canada, it seems like the news media reports another shooting or act of violence that ends in tragedy. As a result, politicians and the public often leap to the conclusion that violence is ...

New hair follicles can corral skin cancer

The same genetic mutations that can trigger cancer in some tissues are relatively harmless in others. A new Yale study has identified an unlikely source of protection against some forms of skin cancer—hair follicle regeneration.

Central banks are waking up to climate change dangers

The impact of climate change on the stability of individual financial institutions and the financial system in general is growing. It influences the types of activities that financial institutions will fund and the cost of ...

Risk factors that predict a dog's fear at the vet

A new study led by researchers from the University of Adelaide has found up to 40 percent of owners report their pet dogs are scared while being examined by a vet while, globally, up to one in seven dogs to show severe or ...

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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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