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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 June, 2004, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Bankrupting the NHS?
Would the NHS be able to cope with future increases in cancer?

On More or Less this week, we asked if the dizzying thought of some big numbers has led to mistakes on a huge scale about the difference between life and death.

In the past week there've been reports that cancer cases will treble in a generation, potentially bankrupting the National Health Service.

"Cases of cancer in Britain will treble in the next 20 years, inflicting crippling costs on the NHS, a report says" said the Independent, in similar pessimistic tones to others.

You could be forgiven for thinking that something evil is lurking out there, in our food, our air, or our modern lifestyles that will lead to a huge increase in, as the papers described it, "cancer cases".

BBC Radio 4's More or Less was broadcast on Thursday, 24th June, 1500 BST

But the report itself is careful not to say that these will be additional new cases. So in what sense is cancer expected to increase in Britain? Andrew Dilnot investigates the truth behind the numbers.

Shopping and psychology

Also this week, we'll be asking, slightly tongue in cheek, whether we all understand the laws of supply and demand when sauntering through the shopping mall with our friends better than economists do.

Could it be that gossip and psychology is the new economics?

A recent Nobel Prize for economics went to two economists Vernon Smith and Daniel Kahneman for their work on the way our psychologies affect our economic choices as we develop our own tricks and quick techniques to make sense of the world and come to decisions.

As the Financial Times commented at the time: "If people often behave irrationally, basing their choices on gut instinct and incorrect rules of thumb, we have to throw quite a lot of economic theory out of the window."

Plus more news on the government's targets for waste recycling and another case of bad instinct.

Click here to have your say about the programme.

Producer: Michael Blastland
Editor: Nicola Meyrick

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