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Read it all with Skepticism

Posted 8/11/2016

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  This could be considered a partner piece to yesterday's blog about Pharma TV ads. One absolutely must watch those with a high level of skepticism, and one ought to bring that same critical thinking to lots that fills the magazines and newspapers and online stories. A good example is the hype that inevitably accompanies a story about a new cancer treatment or research success. The headlines look as though Cancer has been cured! but the pesky details suggest that this was a tiny study with mice, years away from being tried on humans, and who knows if the initial positive results will hold.

  The same level of uncertainty should be applied to virtually everything that you read about cancer. This includes the stories about miracle cures or the Hollywood stars who rejected traditional treatment and are doing fine with plant extracts. Remember Steve Jobs who died of pancreatic cancer. He had a rare and potentially curable tumor, but refused standard Western care until it was too late.

  Don't believe the magazine covers that scream a special plant, just discovered in Bolivia, cures cancer or a rigid diet that promises you will live to be 100. Remember what your mother always told you: If something seems too good to be true, ir probably isn't (true).

  From The New York Times: 

Why you really can’t believe everything you read about your health
By Emma Court

Much of health news — like the subjects it scrutinizes — isn’t good for you.
The same reasons that make readers click often come at the expense of comprehensive reporting: a simple and easy conclusion when the evidence is far more complicated, focus on daily research to the exclusion of broader context and, worst of all, nondisclosure of industry conflicts.
For the past 10 years, health news watchdog Gary Schwitzer has been trying to cut through stories he calls “more sizzle than steak” through his HealthNewsReview project, which analyzes the quality of health articles, more recently expandingto academic news releases, too.
Many of the problems the project has covered while reviewing thousands of articles and hundreds of news releases come up again — and again, and again, he said. So many, in fact, that when asked for an example, he pulls up his website and scans the most recent posts.
Take, for example, a BuzzFeed article making the claim that a Fitbit could help women get pregnant, despite a sample size of five women.
“Five women!” Schwitzer exclaims. “There’s not much of anything we can say about five women. And yet, picture it, an editorial decision is made to not only have someone work on that, but that’s going to be one of the few things you publish that day. That is insane.”

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