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Terminal digit preference: beware of Benford’s law
  1. T W Beer
  1. Dr T W Beer, Cutaneous Pathology, 24 Leura St, Nedlands, WA 6009, Australia; twb{at}

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Recording numerical data in pathology reports is routine and in some cases may provide valuable prognostic data (eg, tumour size for cancer staging). Hayes has recently observed that there is a tendency for reporters to favour 0 and 5 as the last digits in measurements “terminal digit preference”.1 This is perhaps not surprising as gross measurements are often approximations taken in a relatively imprecise fashion (eg, holding a ruler to an irregularly shaped and flexible tissue sample), and the observer may informally round to the nearest half unit. While microscopic measurements could be claimed to be more accurate, …

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  • Competing interests: None.