Few people could argue that adopting a healthy lifestyle by eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables, getting enough exercise and reducing stress, are all positive things that one can do to improve our overall wellbeing. Undoubtedly these things will make us feel better, but will they protect us from getting cancer? Will they keep us from dying of a cancer we have or prevent a cancer we have already treated from coming back? These are difficult questions that are hard to answer. It is one thing to say lifestyle changes are good for you but another to make big claims about what they can or cannot do for cancer. This story falls into these familiar traps. That lifestyle changes have little to no risk does not excuse the fact that there is paltry evidence to back up the claims.
There is little in the way of helpful information for consumers in this story. What does adopting lifestyle changes involve? Does one need to do all of the changes mentioned in the story? How much of a benefit could one expect? Furthermore, because the story does not include any quotes from any experts in this research area, it lacks any real balance or specific information.
It is not necessary for the story to discuss the costs of such common items, however it would have been nice if the story had mentioned that eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables could be more expensive than the traditional Western diet.
The story does not attempt to quantify the benefits of a healthy diet in terms of cancers prevented or improved survivorship.
The story rightly points out that there are few drawbacks to adopting a healthy lifestyle.
The story does not adequately describe the strength of the available evidence. The story makes such sweeping and varied claims that it is difficult to discern exactly what are the treatments or outcomes that are being discussed. What lifestyle changes are necessary? Diet, exercise, and stress are all mentioned but it is not clear what exactly these mean. Furthermore, the story appears to alternate between claims that lifestyle changes can treat existing cancer, prevent a cancer from recurring, or prevent cancer from occuring in the first place. These are all very different claims that need to be explained and backed up with evidence.
The story does not exaggerate the seriousness or prevalence of cancer and thereby avoids disease mongering. However, it would have been nice if the story had been more clear about different types of cancer in which there may be more or less evidence of an effect of diet. To lump them all together is a gross oversimplification.
The story only quotes one physician, who is also a patient. The story could have been greatly improved by quoting an expert or researcher in this field who is not so emotionally involved.
The story mentions a grab-bag of "lifestyle changes" but does not do anything to describe what they involve (do you have to do them all?) or the pros and cons of the different options.
Clearly fruits and vegetables, spices and green tea, and physical activity – mentioned in the story – are all widely available.
A healthy diet is clearly not a new idea.
There is no way to know if the story relied on a press release as the sole source of information. We do know that it relies on only one source – who’s promoting his book – and on a network that is cross-promoting its involvement in a cancer telethon.