Health News Review
  • Mar 4 2015

    BMJ back on bad track with its news releases: now gout & Alzheimer’s

    Biostatistician Dr. Donald Berry of MD Anderson Cancer Center wrote to me recently, “My assessment of the landscape of observational studies, including much of epidemiology, ranges from bleak to parched earth.” That should get your attention about why we – all of us who communicate about research findings – need to do a better job [...]

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  • Mar 3 2015

    A tale of two observational studies – peanuts, coffee, heart health – and how the journals & some journalists handled them differently

    I saw this coming as soon as I saw the BMJ news release about a study published in one of its journals, Heart. The BMJ, which seemed to have turned a corner recently, starting to include at least boilerplate news release language about the limitations of observational studies, dropped the ball on a new one. [...]

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  • Feb 27 2015

    A simple test proven to predict how long you’ll live? Gannett gaffe

    A veteran health care journalist sent me the following story and wrote, “So irresponsible, bad enough on local (TV) news, but it ends up on USA Today? I hope you can skewer it.” “How long will you live? Try the Sitting Rising Test,” was the headline on USA Today’s website as they posted a TV [...]

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  • Feb 27 2015

    MS joins the coffee club, in which association ≠ causation

    Yes, another new member for the coffee club.  Nary a week goes by without a new observational study about the benefits or risks of coffee consumption.  And almost always, many news organizations fail to explain the limitations of the observational studies. Today’s example, though, gives us one of the better cross-media comparisons of people who [...]

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  • Feb 9 2015

    Endometrial cancer joins the “coffee club” in which association ≠ causation

    Did the latest round of causal claims about a coffee observational study stem from a news release? I’m betting so, because not many journalists I know regularly read the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomakers & Prevention, which is where the latest coffee study appeared. Indeed, that’s a journal published by the American Association for Cancer Research.  AACR [...]

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  • Jan 29 2015

    What was missing in many stories about sugary drinks & girls’ 1st periods

    A study published in the journal Human Reproduction found that “more frequent sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption was associated with earlier menarche (age at first menstrual cycle) in a population of US girls.” The data came from questionnaires filled out by 9 to 14 year old girls.  A built-in limitation of this kind of research is [...]

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  • Jan 23 2015

    Squelching rage when reading “Twitter knows when you’re going to have a heart attack”

    That was the headline of a UPI.com story that began:  “Twitter’s fast pace and knack for promoting public spats can surely raise heart rates and get the proverbial blood boiling, but the platform known for hashtags and half-formed thoughts can also predict heart attacks — or at least rates of heart disease.” It’s a story [...]

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  • Jan 22 2015

    Coffee & melanoma: add to annals of abused translation of observational research

    The annals of confusing news stories about observational studies showing an association between coffee and…fill in the blank…have a new entry. Do a Google search for “coffee and melanoma” and you’ll get thousands of returns. Many of these stories inappropriately used causal language – suggesting that a cause-and-effect had been proven, when it hadn’t. TIME, [...]

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  • Jan 21 2015

    Cleveland Clinic Tweets Misleading Claim That Lives On and On

    The following is the first guest blog post from one of our new contributors, veteran health care journalist Trudy Lieberman. Another veteran, Andrew Holtz, also contributes.  I shudder to think that, among the 3 of us, we have well more than 100 years of journalism experience, but I’m thankful for what that means in bringing [...]

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  • Nov 19 2014

    Evaluating evidence in media messages about breast cancer

    The National Breast Cancer Coalition asked me to deliver a presentation at its Project LEAD® workshop in Washington, DC, on November 16. Project LEAD® is designed for NBCC members who want “an introductory education in the science of breast cancer, research design, advocacy and understanding medical news in the media.” My slides appear below.   [...]

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