My disease is more important than your disease

by reestheskin on 19/06/2023

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Acute myeloid leukaemia – The Lancet

Acute myeloid leukaemia accounts for over 80 000 deaths globally per annum, with this number expected to double over the next two decades. The 5-year relative survival for patients in the USA diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia is currently 30·5%, improved from only 18% in the year 2000.5

Sometimes raw numbers — rather than rates — are appropriate. But not often. Instead, I suspect authors quote raw numbers to bolster ‘importance’. I have even see figures projected into the next quarter century. Why stop there, why not the next century?

In general and in this case the authors should have quote mortality rates. The standard, which usually works is per 100,000 of population. In the case, AML, a truly dreadful disease has a mortality rate of close to 1:100,000. The rate figure allows easy comparisons with other causes of death without having to check on the population numbers of the world population or other denominator.

It just bugs me. The Lancet is full of this sloppy editing. And how much of the projected increase is due to changes in the age structure of the world population? Yes, it all matters, but the frequent coupling of partisanship and hype needs a polite divorce.