Health News Review
  • Oct 1 2014

    My article kicks off 5th Annual Health Literacy Month Blog Series

    sher of Why does this matter? Because this is the way many people get most of their health care information. Some journalists have excelled, explaining the trade-offs of potential benefits and potential harms – yes, harms – from screening tests. But far more often, I’ve seen news stories that promote unhelpful themes: Emphasizing or exaggerating potential benefits while minimizing or ignoring potential harms Framing screen…

  • Dec 28 2010

    A leading health policy issue for 2010-11: communicating tradeoffs in screening test decisions

    One trend that stands out from 2010 is what I call screening madness. I’m referring specifically and solely to the promotion of screening tests outside the boundaries of evidence and to the emphasis only on the benefits of screening tests with concomitant downplaying or complete disregard for the harms of screening. Why is this a health policy issue? There are several obvious reasons. If we don’t communicate balanced information…

  • Jan 22 2013

    UK citizen’s jury advises on communication about the benefits and harms of breast screening

    tion since 1988, invites all women between the ages of 50 and 70 to undergo a mammogram every three years. The current invitation letters and accompanying leaflets have been heavily criticised for failing to mention potential harms of breast screening, in particular the risk of overdiagnosis and overtreatment ( In response to this criticism, Sir Michael Richards, National Cancer Director for the NHS, asked …

  • Nov 10 2013

    NBC races the clock in a race to the bottom with anchormen & prostate cancer screening promotion

    …?”  Samadi responded: “There are no complications to screening.  What we want people to know is, get your PSA baseline at the age of 40.” No complications?   The US Preventive Services Task Force  discusses harms related to prostate screening in general: Harms of Detection and Early Treatment/Harms Related to Screening and Diagnostic Procedures – Convincing evidence demonstrates that the PSA test often produces false-pos…

  • Feb 20 2015

    CBS promotes “essential/critical” screening tests but never mentions over-diagnosis

    erol, to others recommending it be checked almost in utero.  The suggestion that otherwise healthy people need to be constantly, proactively probed and scanned for impending disease, without the discussion of the benefits and harms represents what Dr. David Sackett called the arrogance of preventive medicine, which often comes across as aggressively assertive, presumptive, and overbearing.  I would politely ask any media outlet to take things to …

  • Apr 30 2012

    Analysis of two Annals papers on benefits of mammography in younger women

    e in risk for breast cancer in women aged 40 to 49 years. Identification of these risk factors may be useful for personalized mammography screening. The second study tried to assess “tipping the balance of benefits and harms to favor screening mammography starting at age 40.”  The lead author concluded: “The evidence suggests that for women at twice the average risk for breast cancer, biennial screening beginning at age 40 has more b…

  • Jun 30 2011

    ABC News story on lung cancer screening trial “an amazingly unbalanced report”

    t also reported something about the very high rate of false positives in the study – although some downplayed the false positives – allowing one researcher, for example, to say that “there are no significant harms due to screening.” That is a comment that must be challenged, and we’ll provide more perspectives on this later. But one story stood out in our searches for how imbalanced and incomplete it was – and …

  • Oct 15 2013

    Shuffle off to Buffalo for another questionable prostate screening promotion

    By now, any health care consumer with a pulse knows about the tradeoffs involved in prostate cancer screening.  It must have reached most corners of the US that mass prostate cancer screening is not recommended by: the US Preventive Services Task Force the American College of Physicians: “Doctors should inform men aged 50 to 69 years about the limited potential benefits and substantial potential harms of prostate cancer screening. Patient…

  • Oct 22 2013

    When doctors don’t discuss harms of screening tests with patients

    Another important paper in the JAMA Internal Medicine “Less is More” series. “Overdiagnosis and Overtreatment: Evaluation of What Physicians Tell Their Patients About Screening Harms,” is by one of my risk communication gurus, Gerd Gigerenzer and colleague Odette Wegwarth. They surveyed 317 US men and women aged 50-69 years, a population with the highest exposure to screening programs. Their summary: Most participants …

  • Oct 7 2011

    Thoughtful analysis of the USPSTF and prostate cancer screening

    mes reported today that the Task Force will issue draft recommendations next week advising against prostate cancer screening. The Task Force concluded that screening should be discouraged because it has no net benefit or the harms outweigh the benefits. Not even two years ago, the Task Force’s recommendation against routinely performing mammography in average-risk women before age 50 outraged professional organizations, advocacy groups, …

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