Headache caused by aspirin news of the past 10 days

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Dr. Vinay Prasad wrote on Twitter:



If you click through on the image in his Tweet above, you’ll eventually get to a larger view of the headline screenshot he captured on Google. I list some of those headlines in bold font below (with my comments in parentheses, based on what I found after following the links on Google):

  • Aspirin and reduced risk of dying from prostate cancer (But, as the Wall Street Journal reported, “cancer experts cautioned that observational study doesn’t prove aspirin’s protective role in the disease.”)
  • Study shows success in U of M heart health aspirin regimen program (Is a 91-word story better than nothing?  Not always.  And not when it may have been better to just republish the 600-word news release upon which the story is based – a practice we don’t endorse, but perhaps better than the all-too-brief and incomplete paraphrasing that was published.)
  • Aspirin may lower breast tissue density, lead to early detection of cancer (Note: this was an observational study.  No causal link was established to support the causal language in this headline.) 
  • Daily aspirin may reduce cancer risk (This headline – above a syndicated physician column – doesn’t capture the take-home point in the column itself: “With virtually every type of treatment, you need to balance the good it will do against the harm it may cause. I don’t think we know enough about that balance yet to recommend that most people take a regular daily aspirin to prevent cancer.”
  • Aspirin nearly doubles survival in GI cancer patients (link to the source article doesn’t take you to the actual article, so readers are unable to get more detail about this “doubling of survival.”)

All appeared within the last 10 days.

This is just one tiny glimpse of the tsunami of not-always-helpful health care news flooding the American public every day while they surf the web to try to stay afloat.

Warning to news consumers:  look for context and caveats.  If you don’t see it, move on.


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