Friday, 27 March 2009

Could does not mean will

The Times reports today that waiting five minutes before drinking your tea or coffee "could save your life".

It's another one of those media stories about medical research that gets confused over relative risks. Drinking hot tea may increase fivefold or eightfold your risk of cancer of the oesophagus, depending on how hot you have it. Apparently this kills "more than half a million people around the world every year".

It doesn't take a lot of maths to work out that this is a pretty minimal risk, multiplied by eight or otherwise. With such a small risk, the idea that letting your drink cool down could "save your life" you life is a bit far-fetched.

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