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February 14, 1977

Decision Analysis

Author Affiliations

University of Colorado Boulder

JAMA. 1977;237(7):642-643. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270340027008

To the Editor.—  The conclusion that decision analysis shows that additional knowledge can be harmful is misleading. Decision analysis in the pancreatic cancer example would show that the attractive-sounding test is useless, not harmful. The test appears harmful in the example because it is misused.The statistics reported for the hypothetical test for pancreatic cancer indicate that 80% of patients who have cancer are detected, while positive results are obtained for only 5% of noncancerous patients. The encouraging impression given by these figures is reversed when Bayes theorem is used to compute the probability that a patient with positive results has cancer:P(C/T) is the probability of cancer if the test result is positive, P(C) is the probability of cancer, P(NC) is the probability of no cancer, P(T/C) is the probability of a positive test if cancer exists, and P(T/NC) is the probability that the test is positive if no