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Article
July 26, 1958

THE CASE OF THE DEADLY PARALLEL

JAMA. 1958;167(13):1639. doi:10.1001/jama.1958.02990300065015

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Abstract

Statistics can often be presented to the uninitiated in such a manner that they seem to prove something when in reality they prove nothing at all. Some years ago a statistical parallel was presented between the steadily increasing use of mechanical refrigeration and the rapidly rising death rate from cancer. More recently the growing cancer death rate has been presented in parallel with the upward trend in consumption of soft drinks. In each instance, the unwarranted conclusion was drawn that there was a cause and effect relationship in these statistical parallels.

In like manner, parallels of a nonstatistical nature can be used effectively to appear to prove what they do not prove at all. A renewed interest in physical fitness as a neglected phase of total fitness has brought forth many public expressions of viewpoints, often differing and sometimes conflicting. It has been suggested, not to say demanded, that the

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