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Probability of a cancer cluster: 1 in a million

By Murray Bourne, 14 Aug 2007

In a recent cancer scare at Australia’s national broadcaster, 13 women developed breast cancer while working in the ABC’s (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Brisbane studios.

In 612 studios are moving (link no longer available), Professor Bruce Armstrong from the Sydney Cancer Centre at the University of Sydney says:

"What we’ve observed is about a 6.25-fold increase in breast cancer in women who are employed here at the ABC in Brisbane, compared with the general Queensland population of women," he explained.

"The probability the that increase is due simply to chance is about one in a million so we are looking at something that is almost certainly a real increase in risk.

A recent update, "14th cancer linked to ABC studio" [no longer available], describes the plight of the latest victim and adds:

However, no cause has been found, despite an extensive investigation.

We live in a world where the amount of radiation increases daily. I work almost directly under a wireless access point (for wireless broadband). The manufacturer will always claim that the equipment is safe. However, I imagine this was the same assurance given to the ABC women. There was clearly something amiss in the ABC’s Brisbane studios.

We never know what harm radiation is doing to us - until it is too late.

Risk assessment is a very important field of applied mathematics and statistics. I imagine any woman that worked in that Brisbane studio will find great difficulty in obtaining health insurance.

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