Correlation does not indicate causation.

Night shift

The AP syndicated this article today claiming that “working the graveyard shift will soon be listed as a ‘probable’ cause of cancer.”

This is bullshit.

This report, published by the World Health Organization, surely does NOT claim that working the nightshift causes cancer. It most likely describes a correlation and includes theories about what causes this correlation. (I could not find a copy of the report on the WHO or IARC websites.)

The article paints such a sharp picture of “night shift = cancer” that it reeks of irresponsible and sensational reporting. Not something to expect of the AP, eh?

Where is the discussion about other factors that are correlated with night shifts? This is a guess, but I’d bet a lot of money that night shift work is correlated with low income and low education. This article points to the correlation between low income and breast cancer.

In many cases, the cause of cancer is a mystery. There’s a whole lot we don’t know about cancer. Misleading articles like these promote fear and misunderstanding. They should be accompanied with a clearer explanation of the difference between correlation and causality.


This entry was posted in media and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s