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And, oh, by the way, it might increase heart attack/stroke risk

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We note a curious difference in the framing of two stories about a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, “Chemoprevention of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer With Celecoxib.

HealthDay’s headline read: “Celebrex Shows Potential in Preventing Some Skin Cancers.” But its cautious subhead quickly followed: “But possible links to cardiovascular risk may not make it a long-term strategy, experts say.” Again, in the second sentence of the body of the story, HealthDay cautioned:

“But one expert was quick to note that the drug, which is most commonly used to counter the pain of arthritis, has been linked in some studies to an increase in the risk for cardiovascular problems. So it isn’t yet clear that Celebrex (celecoxib) is an ideal choice to prevent cancers that could be treated by other means.

“We have a lot of different treatments for non-melanoma skin cancers,” noted Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “I would want more information regarding the mechanism of action of Celebrex, because of the other risks,” she said.

The Los Angeles Times’ health blog, on the other hand, headlined it, “Skin cancer prevention could involve using Celebrex.” But risks? It took them 10 sentences, deep down in the story, to include just this one line:

“The Food and Drug Administration stopped the study early, however, when reports emerged that NSAIDs might increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.”

Framing, structure of a story, and balance between benefits and harms are all so important in health news – and too often are out of whack.

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