Danglyparts and decision theory

by John Quiggin on March 23, 2012

Anytime ladyparts are in the news, it’s not long before there’s a palpable feeling that longstanding norms of gender equity have been violated and that balance needs to be restored. Often, this just means getting back to the really important stuff, like whether to invade Iran, Syria or both[1]. But there’s also the point that men have parts too, and should have a share in the limelight, the same as women do when we discuss important stuff.[2]

So, I thought I’d talk about a dangly dilemma faced by men of a certain age – whether to take the PSA test for prostate cancer.

These days a lot of authorities recommend against testing. I have ignored their advice, and get tested every couple of years (news good, so far!). So, who is right? And does the argument extend to other parts and tests?

update I thought I’d add a followup question here, rather than in comments. From a decision-theoretic viewpoint, the arguments against testing imply, for consistency, the following further recommendations (subject to some qualifications I’ll spell out).
*First, that someone who takes the test (ignoring the guidelines) and comes up with a high PSA score should not have a biopsy, and should not be tested again.
*Second, that someone who has a biopsy and gets a bad result should just ignore it, and not get tested again.

The qualification is that this treats the cost of the PSA test and the biopsy (which, as discussed in comments, carries some non-trivial risks) as small, relative to the benefits of even modest changes in treatment (such as a shift from complete ignorance to “watchful waiting”). Does anyone know whether these recommendations have in fact been made? If not, can anyone provide a defence of what seems to me to be an obvious inconsistency? End update

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Trayvon Martin Disgrace

by Belle Waring on March 23, 2012

N.B. I say “disgrace” because it’s not a tragedy, precisely.
I am officially not allowed to look at the internet, as it is likely to give me a terrible migraine. More terrible than the one I already have. All the time. So this will have to be brief (lol srsly). I just scanned the front page to see if there was anything else, but didn’t see it, so I feel as if I have to say something about the shameful, quasi-state-sanctioned execution of Trayvon Martin.

Trayvon Martin was 17, and was staying with family in Sanford, Florida, in what is referred to by the obligatory monicker “mostly-white gated community.” He walked out to buy some candy and a can of iced tea at a local convenience store, and was tailed back by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman, who deemed him “real suspicious” and “probably on drugs or something.” This joker George Zimmerman then got out of his truck to (perhaps) scuffle with Trayvon, and then shot him in cold blood, as far as anyone can figure, while Trayvon was pleading for his life. This (the pleading) can be heard in the background of neighbors’ 911 calls. I have to say it’s a little odd none of them stepped out on the porch with a shotgun to say “I’ve called the cops already, cut it out!” The number of people committing crimes who will just run away if you say “I see you down there, knock it off” is high IME. Zimmerman claims it is his high-pitched voice we hear begging for his life between the firing of the first and the second shot, after which there is silence. Take a look at a picture of the man. I don’t even know what to say.

UPDATE: I place this above the fold so everyone will see. I was sort of taking it for granted that people were reading Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ blogging on this, which has been copious and excellent. But if you haven’t, you should.
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