Health News Review
  • Feb 17 2010

    Aspirin & breast cancer: another case study in communicating observational studies

    There’s undoubtedly going to be a lot of miscommunication about the latest analysis coming out of the Nurses Health Study, which looks at the impact of different lifestyle factors on women’s health. This time they tracked aspirin use, and then saw how many women were diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s an observational study – not a trial – and it can’t prove cause and effect. The analysis showed that wo…

  • Dec 18 2012

    Please, Grey Lady, don’t spill more coffee observational studies on us

    y around journal articles without getting hurt, you can read the entire study online. Here’s what the story could have told readers, to be most helpful: It could have explained the inherent limitations in observational studies.  We have a published a primer on the topic of the importance of the proper language to describe such studies.  Even a journal group joined in this refrain recently, warning researcher-authors about the importance of…

  • Apr 13 2012

    Doc-blogger blasts Medscape’s CME exercises on observational studies

    Obesity medicine doc-blogger Yoni Freedhoff writes, “Why I Can No Longer Trust Medscape.“  In a nutshell, he’s driven nuts by Medscape being “probably the largest online continuing medical education (CME) provider” but using that platform to do the following: “Looking at the 3 most recent observational study failures, where the studies were so poor as to make conclusions impossible, 2 of the 3 made it to Medsc…

  • Jul 29 2014

    6th time I’ve called out BMJ news releases on observational studies

    I do not enjoy this – repeatedly calling out The BMJ for its misleading news releases on observational studies. But I’m going to keep doing it until I see a change. The last time I did this, just two months ago, change was promised by The BMJ editor Trish Groves. But here we go again. The BMJ this week sent out the following news release.  I have highlighted the areas of concern in red. Five daily portions of fruit and vegetables may…

  • Feb 14 2011

    Why negative studies are good for health journalism, and where to find them

    This is a guest column by Ivan Oransky, MD, who is executive editor of Reuters Health and blogs at Embargo Watch and Retraction Watch. One of the things that makes evaluating medical evidence difficult is knowing whether what’s being published actually reflects reality. Are the studies we read a good representation of scientific truth, or are they full of cherry-picked data that help sell drugs or skew policy decisions? That question may…

  • Jan 10 2013

    Positive spin on cancer studies – warnings to researchers, journalists, and the public

    …en with breast cancer.“ Results & conclusion, in short: Of 164 included trials, 33% showed bias in reporting of the primary endpoint  and 67% in the reporting of toxicity. Bias in reporting of outcome is common for studies with negative primary endpoints. Reporting of toxicity is poor, especially for studies with positive primary endpoints. Some journalists, who had more time than I did yesterday to delve into the details, reported on…

  • 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 when communicating about observational studies. That includes medical journals and journalis…

  • Sep 5 2013

    The NY Times Well blog isn’t always so well

    The roller coaster ride of uneven quality of the New York Times Well blog was on display again as they posted, “Some Fruits Are Better Than Others.”  Excerpt: Recent studies have found that eating a greater variety, but not a greater quantity, of fruit significantly reduces the risk for Type 2 diabetes. This made researchers wonder whether some fruits might have a stronger effect than others. Using data from three large health studie…

  • Jun 27 2012

    Coffee clichés and the tired old trend on observational study stories

    …s of big local news.  But this TV station grabbed a story off the wire and put it up high in their newscast. Another observational study about supposed benefits of coffee with no discussion of the limitations of observational studies and how they can’t establish cause-and-effect. In other media, tired old coffee clichés and the same tired old trend of failing to explain the limitations of such research played out over and over. The ABC New…

  • Sep 26 2014

    Flawed news about skirt size-breast cancer observational study

    …tions of the research. As always, I point journalists to our primer, “Does the Language Fit the Evidence? Association Versus Causation.” It provides good and bad examples of language used to describe observational studies. ————————- Tweet Follow us on Twitter: and on Facebook. …

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