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Blood Test of 4 Biomarkers Predicts Death Within 5 Years

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the first-the-good-news dept.

Medicine 104

retroworks writes "The NHS and the Daily Telegraph report on two studies (original and repeat duplicating results) in Estonia and Finland which predict whether an apparently healthy human will likely die within 5 years. The four biomarkers that appeared to determine risk of mortality in the next five years were: alpha-1-acid glycoprotein – a protein that is raised during infection and inflammation; albumin – a protein that carries vital nutrients, hormones and proteins in the bloodstream; very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) particle size – usually known for being 'very bad' cholesterol; and citrate – a compound that is an essential part of the body's metabolism. Researchers found that people in the top 20% of the summary score range were 19 times more at risk of dying in the next five years than people in the lowest 20%." The NHS's summary of the news points out that "the implications of such a test are unclear. As this was an observational study, it can only show an association between the biomarkers and risk of death. It does not predict what the underlying cause of death would be for an individual and does not therefore provide an answer in terms of treatment."

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two tudies? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46357907)

two turdies, you mean?

Risk? (2)

clm1970 (1728766) | about 9 months ago | (#46357975)

This should be very helpful to the insurance industry in determining risk.

Re:Risk? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 9 months ago | (#46358051)

Determining risk? Hell, wait for your next policy update, it will contain something along the lines of "policy void if annual screening test show any of the 4 markers above normal".

Re:Risk? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46358255)

It might have if not for the ACA. As it is, we've reformed our health-care so as to not deny insurance to sick people who need it. Fortunately most of us are compassionate people.

Re:Risk? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46358415)

That's not compassionate, that's just stupid. No way we should be "insuring" people who are going to die within 5 years. Or at least not calling it "insurance", since it's not ensuring the person won't die. Call it end-of-life welfare, or terminal socialism, or something more accurate like that. My suspicion is it will make the Death Panels that the Republicans complained about a stark reality.

Also, can you imagine the havoc this could wreak with people trying to go out with a bang and spending their life savings and settling old scores before they kick it? And the lawsuits that could be flying around after people spend all their money after false positives?

Re:Risk? (3, Insightful)

coolsnowmen (695297) | about 9 months ago | (#46360147)

What is wrong with death panels? Seriously. Aside from the name. When medical science advances so that with enough money we could keep someone alive indefinitely. Then the question is, is it worth it? Years ago, and mostly today, this question didn't exist, because we didn't have technology and know how to do it. But eventually we will, and it will be a hard question. Also, I agree about the name- It is "health care" not "health insurance". I just don't get hung up on it.

Re:Risk? (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | about 9 months ago | (#46360579)

You won't think it's such a good idea when you're strapped to a gurney getting wheeled to the Place of Happy Release because you said something bad about Obama.

Re:Risk? (4, Insightful)

GerryGilmore (663905) | about 9 months ago | (#46360901)

I'll ignore the snark about Obama, but - trust me on this, white man - once you've watched a loved one like, say, your mother going through years and years of pain, confusion, terror and misery from Alzheimer's because there IS NO OTHER OPTION LEGALLY ALLOWED, you just might change your alleged mind on the subject. Have a nice day and I hope you never have to confront reality.

Re:Risk? (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 9 months ago | (#46362649)

On the other hand, think of all the fucked up shit people live through - people who could have killed themselves, but don't - and ask yourself if you're absolutely certain she'd want to die. I had a close relative with Alzheimer, in the end she didn't even recognize her own children. She was of course confused and scared, but I don't know - she never seemed to be in the kind of pain and misery you'd need to be suicidal, I think she lost that level of introspection and more or less drifted off into her own world. I think it was worse watching her mentally fall apart for us on the outside, at least in the end.

Re:Risk? (2)

Mashdar (876825) | about 9 months ago | (#46362751)

My mother regularly says she'd want to die were she in the throws of dementia. It's a sad state of affairs that we give dogs a more humane death than humans...

Re:Risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361905)

... because you said something bad about Obama.

Saying bad things about Obama wont make those markers appear. But if you ever leave US soil then you will want to be watching out for drones.

Re:Risk? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 9 months ago | (#46363679)

Enter the carrousel...

Re:Risk? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 9 months ago | (#46362183)

African-Americans die young disproportionately compared to other racial groups. Death panels would be racist and not allowed. An exemption must be provided in order for them to be acceptable.

Re:Risk? (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 9 months ago | (#46364133)

When medical science advances so that with enough money we could keep someone alive indefinitely. Then the question is, is it worth it?

Probably.

Most medicines are cheap to manufacture; it's the initial research that costs money, which gets passed on to consumers through patents. Machines cost some, but are getting cheaper and better as technology marches on. That leaves doctor time as the main cost, but advancing automation should eliminate most of checkups.

There aren't that many seriously ill people around, so it's probably better to eat the costs than start putting up death panels and deal with not only the moral issues but all the fallout from seriously pissed off people who's loved onces got the short stick.

Re:Risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46360533)

> Or at least not calling it "insurance", since it's not ensuring the person won't die.

You just made etymologists around the world cry out in great pain.

Re:Risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46360963)

Do it again!

Re:Risk? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 9 months ago | (#46360965)

I think we wouldn't be in this position if there weren't so many entenmenologists.

let's not rush to judgement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46362125)

I disagree, but we can have this debate when a tests is released that is at least 99.9% accurate. This test is nowhere near that. Being 20x more likely to die is not a guarantee. What if the percentage of people expected to die within 5 years is 0.01? Even a 100 folder increase in risk would mean that fewer that 1 in 100 are actually expected to die. And don't even get me started on outliers and mitigating factors.

Re:Risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46365409)

Also, can you imagine the havoc this could wreak with people trying to go out with a bang and spending their life savings and settling old scores before they kick it? And the lawsuits that could be flying around after people spend all their money after false positives?

Learn how to read. Scoring high on the test doesn't mean that you WILL die within 5 years, only that you have a greater CHANCE of dying in 5 years.

Re:Risk? (1)

rlwhite (219604) | about 9 months ago | (#46360081)

I don't recall the ACA having any provisions related to life insurance. Sure you can keep your health insurance, but the life insurance company will cancel your policy, leaving your family unprotected when treatment fails and you die.

Re:Risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361879)

It might have if not for the ACA. As it is, we've reformed our health-care so as to not deny insurance to sick people who need it. Fortunately most of us are compassionate people.

You're talking health insurance. Those rates shouldnt change because they dont pay for you when you're dead. What about life insurance? Does ACA stop life insurance companies from dropping your insurance when they know you will most likely die? Nope...

Re:Risk? (3, Interesting)

gnick (1211984) | about 9 months ago | (#46358883)

"Next" policy update? This year my company-provided insurance demanded full physicals for me and my wife (not the kids) including 3 vials of blood. That goes for EVERYONE in the company (~3000 in our branch, millions world-wide).

That said, we are insured in spite of the fact that my (very blunt) doctors told me I would likely never leave the hospital. And, if I did, I wouldn't live more than 4 months without a $300k transplant - And it would take 6 months just to get me on the waiting list. That was a year ago last November and at this point they're saying a transplant would be unnecessarily dangerous compared to its benefits. Suffice it to say, the test results may have been accurate and properly interpreted, but the predictions indicated didn't play out as planned.

Re:Risk? (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 9 months ago | (#46358889)

That's not the way the insurance companies work for life insurance.

It's more likely, they would deny you new coverage if your markers were up but that once you signed up - if you paid your premiums, then you would continue to be covered without further tests. And of course for term life, it wouldn't come up at all after you bought the policy.

Re:Risk? (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about 9 months ago | (#46365635)

Our insurance plays the 'New Speak' game. They don't 'charge you more' when they don't like the results of your mandated yearly physical. They just 'don't offer you the discounts' that they offer to people who's test results they do like.

Re:Risk? (2)

dcw3 (649211) | about 9 months ago | (#46358065)

And, it should be the reason why those companies should never see the data. Everyone at high risk would likely be denied coverage.

Re:Risk? (2)

alen (225700) | about 9 months ago | (#46358115)

or you can like, change your lifestyle

its not like this stuff happens magically

Re:Risk? (2)

Sique (173459) | about 9 months ago | (#46358263)

At least the VLDL seems to be more or less predisposed and is not easily changed by a diet change.

Re:Risk? (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#46358267)

Well, sometime it's too late, and some times it's genetic, and yes sometimes it's a donut based issue.

Re:Risk? (5, Interesting)

mjr167 (2477430) | about 9 months ago | (#46358273)

Cause "lifestyle choices" are why we all get sick and die? Really?

News Flash: Everyone dies.

While you can certainly make poor lifestyle choices that increase your risk, you can also make all the 'correct' choices, cut yourself while doing your healthy outdoor activities on something stupid, get flesh eating bacteria, and die.

They are not saying "these activities" are high risk, but "these compounds that everyone has and fluctuate for a variety of reasons not all controlled by the individual" indicate risk. It's like saying something like "white people have a higher risk of this fatal disease (let's say... skin cancer) so lets drop all white people and tell them well, you should have known better than to be white".

Re:Risk? (0)

alen (225700) | about 9 months ago | (#46358363)

risk usually means stupidity
like eating crappy food simply because your parents ate it

i see the older generation from my birth country eating all kinds of crap i rarely touch and they are all on all kinds of prescription drugs to control high blood pressure and lots of other problems. meanwhile my wife and i take care of ourselves and people think we look 10 years younger

Re:Risk? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46359201)

True. Even if you already have heath issues and are over 55yo, improving one's lifestyle can make a dramatic difference. Simply eating less in a culture where everybody overeats all the time and thinks that's "normal" will make a big difference. Just eating less simple carbohydrates and having some vague awareness of calorie intake shaved a full 30kgs off my weight! I know that getting back into hard exercise, though it will kill me to start that up again, will shave 20 years off my physiological age and practically cure my asthma, because it has done that before.

Re:Risk? (1)

sribe (304414) | about 9 months ago | (#46359249)

risk usually means stupidity

Bullshit. Many risks are based in stupidity. Many are not.

Re:Risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46363255)

Yep. My alpha-1-acid glycoprotein is likely elevated due to psoriasis. I'd love to know what lifestyle choice I could make that would change that.

Re:Risk? (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 9 months ago | (#46359369)

And you presumably imagine that stupidity means something close to "deserves to die." And you evidently imagine yourself to be not stupid. I'm sure that just world fallacy will never steer you wrong.

Re:Risk? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 9 months ago | (#46359413)

Grrrr another person who is so furious over what Other People EAT!

Food, is both piratical in giving you energy to live, and emotional as it give you joy to eat something in particular.

Now your body has a craving system in it. When things are good it means you want food to fill a particular nutrient imbalance in your system.
However if you grow up being fed junk food, this craving system gets out of whack. Where it says I need some protein it would say I want a doughnut, because while growing up on junk food, it was available and it at least made you feel better.

Diets are not about people being smart or stupid. That is why they are hard to manage, because you get cravings and if craving matches are not really in sync you may be eating 3 doughnuts to get the protein of say an egg. So after you craving is met you get an excess of other stuff your body really doesn't need that much of.

However for most people I know who look 10 year younger then their peers (Myself included), I find it is less about Diet, but Drugs, Smoking and Alcohol usage.

Re:Risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361097)

'However for most people I know who look 10 year younger then their peers (Myself included), I find it is less about Diet, but Drugs, Smoking and Alcohol usage.'
So which drugs do you suggest? :)

Re:Risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46365753)

Heroin makes for a sexy corpse.

Re:Risk? (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about 9 months ago | (#46365649)

I have found that looking younger tends to be less about Diet, Drugs, Smoking and Alcohol usage. I find that it has more to do with stress. The reason that it looks like people to do a lot of drugs, smoke and drink a lot age faster is because there is a huge correlation between the said activities and high stress lifestyles.

Re:Risk? (1)

mjr167 (2477430) | about 9 months ago | (#46363263)

Your sample set of 2 is certainly proof positive that your lifestyle will work for all 8 billion people living on this planet and anyone who is sick must have just been taking stupid risks.

The arrogance of people who believe that they know best is truly astounding. Unless you are a doctor and specifically MY doctor you have no right to judge my lifestyle. As a point of fact, my doctor specifically told me once that anything I could eat (didn't matter what, ice cream, pizza, whatever as long as it was food) I should eat. At the time I was pregnant, suffering from sever nausea, and loosing weight cause I pretty much threw everything right back up. The point is, you don't know what is driving the choices people are making. You don't know if a person is having weight problems because they are undiagnosed celiac's disease. You don't know if they are having thyroid problems. You don't know if the woman constantly eating crackers and popcorn and getting 'fat' is really pregnant and trying her best not to puke on your shoes.

It is also arrogant to assume that your particular choices will fit with everyone's needs. The 2000 calorie diet is a baseline suggestion. Athletes, pregnant women, women who are nursing, people who live in Alaska where it is fuck cold year long will need more calories. People who are sedentary or have low metabolisms will need less. Carbs and proteins both have their places in different healthy lifestyles.

Lifestyle choices are certainly important, but they are not the only factor in our health. There are a whole variety of genetic and environmental factors that also impact our health. To say that anyone who has a health problem must have made poor life choices and thus deserves to die because they are stupid says a lot about you as a person.

Re:Risk? (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 9 months ago | (#46364165)

i see the older generation from my birth country eating all kinds of crap i rarely touch and they are all on all kinds of prescription drugs to control high blood pressure and lots of other problems. meanwhile my wife and i take care of ourselves and people think we look 10 years younger

You look 10 years younger than your parents? Holy shit, that's some miracle diet you're on!

Re:Risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46359335)

News: Interesting link between X and risk of death.

Highly rated Slashdot comment: "Meh, everyone dies anyway. Who gives a fuck."

I know Slashdot caters to geeks, but geeks have been evolving. Most people would not consider me a geek unless they asked me about my interests. However, there still appears to be a lot of "comic book guy" types lurking about.

Don't get me wrong, I am not the guy that runs 10k every morning. However, as I age, my geekiness has expanded to my health. Having additional data points to measure my health is just another way to expand my passion for geeky things.

Then I come to slashdot. . . and instead of being able to indulge that geeky side, I am met with what I see are insecure "comic book guy" comments. Not saying that is what you are . . . just saying it is hard for me to read your post without hearing an aggravated version of the "comic book guy" voice (now drop that twinkie and go for walk, fatty!).

Re:Risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46360827)

Wow, the "white skin" angle really drives home the point that.... misses the point of the report entirely. Like a lot. Of missing the point.

Re:Risk? (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 9 months ago | (#46358313)

It's not like changing ones lifestyle happens magically either. Point being that if it took time to develop it will proably take even more time to correct and by the time these markers can even be found, it may already be too late.

That, plus what evidence is there that these markers are directly influenced by lifestyle?

Re:Risk? (4, Insightful)

gnick (1211984) | about 9 months ago | (#46358979)

Smoking? Choice. Drinking? Choice. Eating crappy foods? Mostly choice. Genetics? You're pretty much stuck with what you have. Unless you're proposing some 'final solution', some people just have it rough.

Re:Risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46365737)

Is it just me or has proportion of incompassionate assholes on /. increased sharply? Beta is not the only reason to leave this site.

Re:Risk? (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about 9 months ago | (#46361015)

Or us, for determining if we're at-risk for dying with any money left in our bank accounts or any wine left in our wine cellars.

Re:Risk? (1)

blackicye (760472) | about 9 months ago | (#46365171)

That was my initial reaction as well, underwriters are going to love this one.

Bad Links? (1)

dptalia (804960) | about 9 months ago | (#46358031)

The links to the Telegraph and the NHS are both bad.

Re:Bad Links? (2)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 9 months ago | (#46358075)

Looks like the NHS link was missing a dash: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2014/02... [www.nhs.uk]

Re:Bad Links? (1)

dptalia (804960) | about 9 months ago | (#46358189)

Thanks!

I've got a better one (1, Insightful)

3.5 stripes (578410) | about 9 months ago | (#46358067)

If a person's age is over 105 years, they're somewhere around 99% likely to die within the next 5 years.

Re:I've got a better one (0)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#46358289)

That's not actually correct.

Re:I've got a better one (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 9 months ago | (#46358961)

I think the danger of GP being cited in any scientific papers is pretty low. I wouldn't want to put a number on it around here, though, obviously.

Why not tell us what is correct?

Re:I've got a better one (1)

Warbothong (905464) | about 9 months ago | (#46358611)

If a person's age is over 105 years, they're somewhere around 99% likely to die within the next 5 years.

I advise that you never start a life insurance business! If someone has lived to 105, not only have they managed to avoid infant mortality (which accounts for many deaths and pulls average life expectancy down dramatically), but they've shown a remarkable ability to stay alive, ie. they're exactly the people whose deaths you *don't* want to bet on! Unless they already have a life-threatening condition, in which case you're cheating ;)

Re:I've got a better one (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46358915)

Uh, no.
http://www.wolframalpha.com/in... [wolframalpha.com]

Heinlein (2)

Stargoat (658863) | about 9 months ago | (#46358091)

Didn't Heinlein write a short story about something similar? "Life-Line" I think it was called.

Re:Heinlein (2)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 9 months ago | (#46358151)

In fact, this was his very first published story.

Re:Heinlein (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 9 months ago | (#46358183)

In LifeLine, Pinero did not use blood tests. Also it predicted death to within minutes, and of accidental causes as well as disease.

Note that he supposedly gave the money back To Lazarus Long (AKA Woodrow Wilson Smith)

Re:Heinlein (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 9 months ago | (#46359199)

It's also the story with what I call the "RIAA quote", even though it was aimed at insurance companies:

There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or a corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years , the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped ,or turned back, for their private benefit.

Re:Heinlein (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 9 months ago | (#46361745)

The story actually brought to mind a set of short stories I read recently: Machine of Death [amazon.com]

Inspired by a Dinosaur Comics strip, the short stories all share one element: They have a machine that someone (often many people) in the stories use that tells them how they will die. Not when, but how. And not exactly how either. "Stroke" can mean that you are in an airplane crash due to the pilot having a stroke. "Old age" can mean you get run over by an old guy driving a car. However, people in these stories must live their lives knowing that what is on that slip of paper is coming for them.

Correlation != Causation (4, Insightful)

sinij (911942) | about 9 months ago | (#46358111)

First, correlation will not tell you causes. Second, correlation does not necessary make individual outcome predictions possible.

For example, out of population that have bad scores on this test mortality may be 19 times higher, but for any given individual it does not necessary means they are going to die in 5 years, or event that they are significantly more likely to die in 5 years.

Re:Correlation != Causation (1)

alen (225700) | about 9 months ago | (#46358225)

if you google the stuff they found, its all lifestyle choices
fairly good chance that if your blood work is screwed up you aren't taking care of your body

Re:Correlation != Causation (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 9 months ago | (#46358251)

And we've known most of this for years (the data that is). Albumin is a commonly screened protein - the others not so much. It's long been known that people with very low albumin levels are very sick. Very sick people die soon.

This perhaps gives one a bit more quantification of the phenomena, but it's hardly a surprise.

Protip: Swathing your body with tin foil will not increase your albumin or VLDL levels. Eating hot dog contained inside the tin foil will.

Re:Correlation != Causation (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 9 months ago | (#46358279)

Correlation here is really fascinating.

Re:Correlation != Causation (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#46358379)

" or event that they are significantly more likely to die in 5 years."
Yes, it does. That's specifically what this is about.
Of course, this is just the first paper, and it's the second paper that's the most important.

Re:Correlation != Causation (1)

sinij (911942) | about 9 months ago | (#46362567)

My understanding that higher levels of mortality are not significant.
 
For example, A is at 0.001% risk and B is at 0.019% risk. Nether are likely to die, but increase in level is significant. This is just one of the games scientists play to get published.

Re:Correlation != Causation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46358463)

Yes, yes. Correlation does not necessarily imply causation. But it does give one an entry point into further research, which is clearly the point of the results that are reported here.

Re:Correlation != Causation (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 9 months ago | (#46358487)

I'm sure there's a point here I'm missing, but isn't that what the NHS's conclusions at the bottom of the summary are saying?

Re:Correlation == No insurance (1)

gutnor (872759) | about 9 months ago | (#46358785)

correlation imply causation of not finding an insurance.

Re:Correlation != Causation (1)

robbyjo (315601) | about 9 months ago | (#46365229)

Oh the classical correlation != causation meme! Read the f***ing paper first and understand the arguments!

You should understand WHICH 4 biomarkers they are testing: VLDL, Albumin, Citrate, and Alpha-1 acid glycoprotein. If these four are high, chances are the metabolism behind these four indicators has been wrong for DECADES and is hardly reversible. It makes sense, therefore, to predict 5-y mortality rate with these 4 biomarkers. Sure the prediction isn't perfect, but boy are they good indicators of someone health just as fasting blood glucose, blood pressures, cholesterols and other measurements!

So, just quit this kneejerk correlation != causation reaction already and understand the science behind it!

Other biomarkers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46358123)

I think high levels of cyanide are also a good predictor of death. And that's just one example.

Sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46358165)

19 times more likely to die than without the protein, well this is very conclusive of death within 5 years this could easily be influenced by lifestyle choices, I see no limitations on diet or activities how do we know that the participants weren't all taking up extreme skydiving or eating fried chicken every night.

Please update the links! (1)

cyn1c77 (928549) | about 9 months ago | (#46358175)

Two of the three links in the summary are broken.

Re:Please update the links! (2)

drdread66 (1063396) | about 9 months ago | (#46359061)

Here is a link to the Daily Telegraph article. [telegraph.co.uk]

Re:Please update the links! (2)

drdread66 (1063396) | about 9 months ago | (#46359111)

...and here's the link to the article on NHS. [www.nhs.uk]

Horribly Misleading Title (1)

barlevg (2111272) | about 9 months ago | (#46358299)

When I read "predicts death within five years," I inferred a "to," that is, I expected that the study predicted when a person would die to within a margin of error of five years (death clock), which would be a much bigger deal than what they actually did.

"death" or curable condition (1)

RichMan (8097) | about 9 months ago | (#46358321)

OK so the markers indicate a state that normally leads to death. Now we can detect it. Does that mean we can now do fix for the detectable condition and those deaths now become avoidable?

I suppose this is some sort of organ failure early warning system. What it definitly is not is some sort of quantum state indicating that the body is about to undergo soul removal.

Re:"death" or curable condition (2)

oracleofbargth (16602) | about 9 months ago | (#46358389)

What it definitly is not is some sort of quantum state indicating that the body is about to undergo soul removal.

Unless it also predicts that the person in question will become a politician within the next 5 years.

Likely death not likely (4, Informative)

hweimer (709734) | about 9 months ago | (#46358367)

Death is a quite rare thing; ignoring age and other factors, the probability of someone to die within five years is less than 5%. Even when you belong to the top 20% in terms of risk, the probability of death is just 15%, so you're much more likely to be alive than dead after this time. And for what it's worth, the biomarkers are strongly correlated with other factors like "does this person have cancer?", so that in the end the authors say that their new model is just 4% better than previously used models.

Re:Likely death not likely (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46358539)

So rather than what the headline describes, it is a slightly better way to test if the patient has multiple life-threatening conditions actively working to kill him already.

Sounds like a good first test to suggest more specific tests.

Re:Likely death not likely (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 9 months ago | (#46358983)

Death is a quite rare thing

Quite the opposite, actually.

Re:Likely death not likely (2)

neurovish (315867) | about 9 months ago | (#46361243)

19x a tiny number is still a tiny number. These kinds of headlines always disappoint me since the pertinent information is buried far beneath the hyperbole. Thanks for digging it up.

VITAMINS DON'T DO NOTHIN'! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46358723)

Just glad TFA doesn't try to sensationalize this, though who knows what the media might try to do with it.

"The implications of such a test are unclear. As this was an observational study, it can only show an association between the biomarkers and risk of death. It does not predict what the underlying cause of death would be for an individual and does not therefore provide an answer in terms of treatment."

How to present the best poker face (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46358745)

if your physician decides to drop some papers onto the floor as a ditraction, you're doomed.

Look at it this way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46359039)

Everyone at or over the age of five has died, or will die, not within, but EXACTLY in five years, eventually.

(spooky music) (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 9 months ago | (#46359059)

What would be trippy would be if this was regardless of the type of death - accidental, murder, etc.

Life Insurance TURMOIL Ahead (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 9 months ago | (#46359093)

People who take the test may wish to load up on life insurance.

Insurers, on the other hand, will want to use these tests and DENY to offer insurance, unless the premium goes up 20 times.

This could easily destroy the life insurance industry as it is today.

Re:Life Insurance TURMOIL Ahead (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 9 months ago | (#46359257)

People who take the test may wish to load up on life insurance.

Insurers, on the other hand, will want to use these tests and DENY to offer insurance, unless the premium goes up 20 times.

This could easily destroy the life insurance industry as it is today.

Insurance companies already know about this. That is why they measure your HDL cholesterol and total cholesterol when you have a physical. Subtracting the HDL from the total is a lot cheaper than a full lipid profile and gives the same basic information.

Re:Life Insurance TURMOIL Ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361739)

Perhaps you should start a life insurance company and sell 5 year term insurance policies to people. Good luck with that business.

Worthless study (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 9 months ago | (#46359223)

Of the top 10 causes of death in the world, according to the WHO, ischemic heart disease and stroke kill more people than the other 8 combined. Doctors already knew that bad cholesterol (ldl/vldl) and inflamation were the leading cause of both of those and have known for decades. The study doesn't show anything that wasn't already known and just adds sensationalism, probably to get increased funding.

And The Race Is ON! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46359603)

Running to be the first to find a cure for the symptoms, instead of the percieved problem. And charge you more for not taking it, when it is marketed. 5 in 1! Profit (for them)! paleo-GATTACA.

Gotta love /. headlines (2)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 9 months ago | (#46359741)

The study doesn't "predict death within 5 years" it doesn't even predict death for those with the biomarkers. All it says is people who had higher levels of the biomarkers exhibited a greater risk of dying within 5 years than those with lower levels; according the TFA the study didn't even claim a causal relationship between the markers and a cause of death. Of course, a headline that reads "Study should some people have a higher risk of dying in 5 years than others..." wouldn't be as catchy.

p values, public data and percentages OH MY! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46360327)

Honestly, after the p-value article, why is this crap still being published? p value was said to mean its worth a second look, but NOT imply anything else

Second, notice its not in PLOS one. Wonder why? Oh right, they require all data to be public, so you can't "use a model" that just happens to make the results you were looking for.

Lastly, percentages e.g. 19 times more likely! See http://xkcd.com/1252/ Without the baseline, this 19 times more likely is utterly useless. If their "average case" had a 0.000000000001% chance of death, 19 times that would be 0.000000000019% Thats still pretty low. It reeks of numbers manipulation in an attempt for publicity and funding. If the baseline was something reasonably high, like say 1%, and it jumped to 19%, sure that's quite significant! However, were that the case, it would be far more exciting to say that, than simply 19 times, and they would have done so. My guess is my examples are hyperbole, and the actual is probably closer to 0.1 with those markers, their modeling, number fudging, etc, 1.9%. Still not an accurate predictor of mortality, and basically useless.

Re:p values, public data and percentages OH MY! (1)

quantaman (517394) | about 9 months ago | (#46364301)

Honestly, after the p-value article, why is this crap still being published? p value was said to mean its worth a second look, but NOT imply anything else

Second, notice its not in PLOS one. Wonder why? Oh right, they require all data to be public, so you can't "use a model" that just happens to make the results you were looking for.

Lastly, percentages e.g. 19 times more likely! See http://xkcd.com/1252/ [xkcd.com] Without the baseline, this 19 times more likely is utterly useless. If their "average case" had a 0.000000000001% chance of death, 19 times that would be 0.000000000019% Thats still pretty low. It reeks of numbers manipulation in an attempt for publicity and funding. If the baseline was something reasonably high, like say 1%, and it jumped to 19%, sure that's quite significant! However, were that the case, it would be far more exciting to say that, than simply 19 times, and they would have done so. My guess is my examples are hyperbole, and the actual is probably closer to 0.1 with those markers, their modeling, number fudging, etc, 1.9%. Still not an accurate predictor of mortality, and basically useless.

Fortunately there's a paper linked to in the summary that answers your concerns.

The 5-y mortality for persons with a biomarker score within the highest quintile was 19 times higher than for those in the lowest quintile (288 versus 15 deaths during 5 y, corresponding to 15.3% versus 0.8%). Individuals within the highest quintile were further differentiated in terms of their short-term probability of dying according to their biomarker score percentiles: 23% of the individuals with a biomarker score within the highest percentile had died within the first year of follow-up (23 out of 99), and the estimated 5-y mortality was 49% (Figure 5B).

I'm not gonna run the numbers but 288 vs 15 is probably outside of most p-values.

Also note this was a replication of another study, once could be publication bias, but replication raises the odds you're looking at something real.

23% first year mortality for the highest percentile group?? That's definitely something worth writing home about (and you might want to send a will along with it).

Insurance Companies Will Love This (1)

FrodoOfTheShire (3459835) | about 9 months ago | (#46360381)

It's already pretty crazy the number of blood and urine samples insurance companies collect before they issue you insurance. There is no way they will pass up on incorporating this technology into their tests.

So if I'm reading the summary correctly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46360627)

So if I'm reading correctly, this test tells us that having a body full of inflamation and bad cholesterol might kill you quickly. Thanks a lot guys. Treat the underlying cause(s) of those conditions and get back to us. If the subject keeps eating burgers, drinking up a storm and going to brothels, well... the mere fact that we have a chemical test to determine he's killing himself doesn't bother me. You could probably tell just by looking.

Better (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361275)

If I were suicidal I'd show you how to predict within a few hundred ms.

Better predictors available, according to Moss (1)

Bosconian (158140) | about 9 months ago | (#46362133)

- Why? Yes! Because that website said you were going to die at 3pm, didn't it?
- Did it? I can't remember.
- How could you forget? It clearly stated that you were going to die, today. At precisely 3:00. Unless it was tomorrow. But no, it's today, at 3:00.

http://howlonghaveyougot.com/ [howlonghaveyougot.com]

Some phones are meant to have a weedy vibrate setting.

Correlation does = pedantic ass (1)

ACNiel (604673) | about 9 months ago | (#46362993)

Why would correlation!=causation get anything but -1 pedantic ass mods?

People keep repeating that so much on this board that it is negatively affecting their ability to critically think. When dealing with statistics, sometimes cause isn't important, just predicting an outcome with a high degree of certainty.

Just shut your mouth, and think about the conversation at hand differently.

These 4 markers are wildly disjoint. Clearly not one cause involved here. The causes of them individually are pretty well known. But if they can predict something with a high degree of certainty, what does that imply? Who can benefit? Who can get hurt?

Healthy? (1)

quantaman (517394) | about 9 months ago | (#46364257)

I'm curious how these people were classified as 'apparently healthy'. It sounds like these biomarkers were all associated with various health conditions. Did these people have undiagnosed health problems that would have been discovered with a general checkup or did this indicate the presence of problems that would have been otherwise undetected?

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