Sunday, March 9, 2008

McCain's Probability of Death

This article about McCain's history of cancer made me wonder how likely it is that McCain would survive a full term in office, given his advanced age and the fact that he's had melanoma four times.

If elected, McCain will be 72 when he takes office. According to this actuarial table, the probabilities of death in the following year for an average man at ages 72, 73, 74, and 75 are 3.5%, 3.8%, 4.1%, and 4.5%. These figures tell us that a 72-year-old has a 15% chance of dying within four years, and the fuller series indicates that the 72-year-old has a 33% chance of dying within eight years.

Note that these are average figures, and undoubtedly the survival probabilities are lower for a 72-year-old with a history of cancer. The article on McCain's cancer throws out some figures on the longer run effects of melanoma on survival probabilities. It's hard to apply these to McCain's case because the reported figures are not age-specific. Also, they're from a 1992 study, and treatments and survival probabilities have undoubtedly changed since then.

What does all this mean? Although McCain has taken to insulting people who bring it up, his health and age should be an issue. No doubt it's on the minds of his potential VP picks.

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