Podcast: Pathologic profiling – Dr. Otis Brawley on cancer overdiagnosis

Despite many advances in studying cancer, we still use a definition of cancer from the 1850s.  That’s what Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, told the recent Preventing Overdiagnosis 2015 conference at the National Institutes of Health. As a result, he says, the belief continues that a cancer will kill because it […]

5 9/30/2015

Chicago Tribune repost of news release sets new low for churnalism

We recently published a review of a Chicago Tribune story about a vaccine shown to help eliminate precancerous cervical lesions. Our reviewers were effusive with their praise of the piece, calling it “a very thorough analysis” that “had much to admire, including clear quantification of benefits and an acknowledgment of study dropouts and potential harms.” […]

4 9/29/2015

The Twitter health news hype machine

The following is a guest post by Earle Holland, who, for almost 35 years, was the senior science and medical communications officer at Ohio State University. He’s now a member of our editorial team who contributes regularly to the blog.  Historically, the value of news has rested with its immediacy. Sure, content and accuracy affect […]

5 9/23/2015

Better late than never, FDA to hold long overdue safety hearing on Essure sterilization device

Editor’s note: An expert panel convened by the FDA is mulling over the evidence it heard from about 40 speakers at the day-long hearing on the Essure device on Thursday, September 24 (that hearing is previewed in the post below that was published September 23.) According to a Reuters story on the hearing, “The FDA […]

2 9/23/2015

DCIS dilemma: Dr. Laura Esserman podcast

Dr. Laura Esserman is a surgeon and breast cancer specialist who works at the University of California San Francisco.  The San Francisco Chronicle last year called her a rock star.  She told the newspaper that she is driven by “Passion, persistence and energy. I want to drive efforts to completion: change the way we run […]

2 9/22/2015

What do “breakthrough” and “promising” mean to people?

15 years ago I wrote a piece, “The Seven Words You Shouldn’t Use in Medical News.”  A revised version of that piece resides on this site. Two of those seven words were breakthrough and promising. So when those same words were the focus of a research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine, it was worth a closer look. […]

12 9/22/2015

More BMJ overstatement about an observational study — this time it’s antidepressants and violent crime

The following is a guest blog post by Dr. Susan Molchan, one of our independent expert editorial contributors. Last week PLOS Medicine published the results of a large observational study that showed an association between the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class of anti-depressants (e.g. Prozac and Paxil) and violent crime in young people. As a […]


5-Star Friday: liquid biopsies, resveratrol, Med diet and more

This is just a quick Friday shout out to a handful of recent 5-star efforts that we’ve reviewed and which deserve recognition: Reuters adds some cold water to direct-to-consumer ‘liquid biopsy’. Our reviewers called this one particularly strong on characterization of harms and pointed to this informative text: “Patients might be attracted to a less-invasive test […]

2 9/18/2015

Another potentially troubling “partnership” between a news org & Mayo Clinic

Journalist Paul John Scott of the Rochester Post Bulletin writes, “Mayo, Star Tribune form content partnership.”  He begins: Mayo Clinic has entered into a sponsored content deal with the Star-Tribune to generate health, disease and condition treatment related info-graphics for the Twin Cities’ largest newspaper. The clinic describes the arrangement as an opportunity to distribute […]

2 9/18/2015

NIH SPRINT study sparks questions about overtreatment of mild hypertension

Last week the National Institutes of Health (NIH) took the unusual step of announcing the early conclusion of a “landmark” study on managing hypertension. What makes it unusual is that when the NIH made the bold announcement that intensive intervention with a combo of three drugs to reach a new target systolic blood pressure of […]


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