Navigation Links
Promoting healthy skepticism in the news: Helping journalists get it right

An editorial published online November 20 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute discusses the exaggerated fears and hopes that often appear in news coverage of cancer research. The editorial provides guidance for both the media and journals to help alleviate the problem.

Lisa M. Schwartz, M.D., M.S., and Steven Woloshin, M.D., M.S., of Center for Medicine and the Media at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in New Hampshire, and Barnett S. Kramer, M.D., editor-in-chief of the JNCI, use recent media coverage of two studies from the New England Journal of Medicine and the JNCI to demonstrate their point.

Coverage of trial results of the new anti-cancer drug olaparib, which appeared in the NEJM, exaggerated hope in many ways. One national news outlet claimed the drug "was the most important cancer breakthrough of the decade," but failed to note that the study was uncontrolled (so there is no way to know if the drug accounted for the findings), and very preliminary (it is not known if the findings will ever translate into longer life).

The editorialists also point to coverage of a JNCI article on alcohol consumption and cancer risk among women, which may have caused unwarranted fear: "A drink a day raises women's risk of cancer," read one newspaper headline. Unfortunately, the coverage did not provide the magnitude of the risk. Comparing the highest level of drinking (≥15 drinks a week) to the lowest (one to two drinks per week), the investigators observed a 0.6% absolute increase in the risk of breast cancer diagnosis: from 2% to 2.6% for more than 7 years.

Journalists are not the only ones to blame, though, according to the editorialists. Medical journals sometimes leave important elements out of studies. In many cases, absolute risks and study limitations are omitted from the abstracts and journal press releases.

To help journalists and medical journals, the editorialists include tip sheets with guidance on questions to ask study authors, the interpretation of common statistics, and ways to highlight study limitations.

The tip sheets are posted on a new JNCI Web site for science writers:

"We hope that effortswithin medical journals and those directed toward journalistswill help foster healthy skepticism in the news," the authors write. "Namely, setting a higher bar for covering very preliminary or inherently weak research, routinely providing data to support claims, and always highlighting study limitations."


Contact: Steve Graff
Journal of the National Cancer Institute

Related medicine news :

1. Pittsburgh Partners Launch Promising Family-Centered Care Model: Special Focus on Promoting Parental Well-Being and Healthy Child Development
2. Swanson Health Products Joins Peggy Fleming in Promoting the Heart Health Benefits of Ubiquinol, a CoQ10 Dietary Supplement
3. KEAP1 Keeps major cancer-promoting protein at bay
4. The Scleroderma Foundation Applauds Introduction of First Bill in the Senate Promoting Research and Awareness of Scleroderma
5. What are the most effective ways of promoting physical exercise in adults?
6. Ridge Diagnostics Wins Growth-Promoting Loan From Biotech Center
7. Texas Health Resources Recognized by National Business Group on Health as Leading Employer Promoting Healthy Lifestyles for Employees
8. CVS Caremark Recognized with Gold Award from National Business Group on Health for Promoting Healthy Lifestyles for Employees
9. UPMC and UPMC Health Plan Recognized by National Business Group on Health As a Leading Employer Promoting Healthy Lifestyles for Its Employees
10. Insurance Leader Praises Senator Kennedy for Promoting Long-Term Care Aid for All Americans as Part of Health Reform
11. The Scleroderma Foundation Applauds Introduction of First Bill In Congress Promoting Research and Awareness of Scleroderma
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/25/2016)... , ... June 25, 2016 , ... First Choice ... States, named Dr. Sesan Ogunleye, as the Medical Director of its new Mesquite-Samuell Farm ... Medical Director of our new Mesquite location,” said Dr. James M. Muzzarelli, Executive Medical ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... On Friday, June 10, Van Mitchell, ... at Work award to iHire in recognition of their exemplary accomplishments in worksite health ... annual Maryland Workplace Health & Wellness Symposium at the BWI Marriott in Linthicum Heights. ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... ... Those who have experienced traumatic events may suffer from a complex set ... drug or alcohol abuse, as a coping mechanism. To avoid this pain and suffering, ... traumatic event. , Trauma sufferers tend to feel a range of emotions, from depression, ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... The Pulmonary Hypertension Association ... it will receive two significant new grants to support its work to advance ... 25th anniversary by recognizing patients, medical professionals and scientists for their work in ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Comfort Keepers® of San Diego, CA is excited to announce ... program to drive cancer patients to and from their cancer treatments. Comfort Keepers ... of life and ongoing independence. Getting to and from medical treatments is one ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... -- Research and Markets has announced the addition ... to their offering. The ... commercial environment for MedImmune to enter. The US ageing population ... to drive considerable growth for effective anti-influenza medications. The introduction ... considerably, but development is still in its infancy. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... and INDIANAPOLIS , June 23, 2016 ... Lilly Diabetes Tomorrow,s Leaders Scholarship is any indication, the ... announced today online at by the ... diabetes stand in the way of academic and community ... Foundation,s scholarship program since 2012, and continues to advocate ...
(Date:6/23/2016)...  Guerbet announced today that it has been named ... . One of 12 suppliers to receive ... support of Premier members through exceptional local customer service ... to lower costs. ... outstanding customer service from Premier," says Massimo Carrara ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: