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July 30, 1932


JAMA. 1932;99(5):403-404. doi:10.1001/jama.1932.02740570049024

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Sources of Error in Cancer Statistics  In a lecture given before the Medical Society by Dr. K. Wolff it was emphasized that the present method of preparing cancer statistics should be revised. The only reliable statistics are those founded on diagnoses established in vivo, at postmortems on histologic sections, and, finally, on the data afforded by compulsory death certificates. Unsupported clinical diagnoses of cancer, according to calculations, are erroneous in from 20 to 40 per cent of cases; therefore, exact statistics cannot be expected without histologic controls. The verdicts of coroners, some of whom are not physicians, are quite unreliable. Thus statistics which appear to prove the increase of cancer mortality may indicate only the development of the science of medical diagnosis; whereas cancer mortality rises in such statistics, the number of cases labeled senile marasmus, unknown disease and other indefinite diagnoses decreases. Nowadays, well trained physicians know that nobody

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