A Comparison between Neural Networks and other Statistical Techniques for Modeling the Relationship between Tobacco and Alcohol and Cancer

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 9 (NIPS 1996)

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Tony Plate, Pierre Band, Joel Bert, John Grace


Epidemiological data is traditionally analyzed with very simple techniques. Flexible models, such as neural networks, have the potential to discover unanticipated features in the data. However, to be useful, flexible models must have effective control on overfit(cid:173) ting. This paper reports on a comparative study of the predictive quality of neural networks and other flexible models applied to real and artificial epidemiological data. The results suggest that there are no major unanticipated complex features in the real data, and also demonstrate that MacKay's [1995] Bayesian neural network methodology provides effective control on overfitting while retain(cid:173) ing the ability to discover complex features in the artificial data.