A new study published in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association supports more conservative use of hormone therapy in men with advanced prostate cancer who also have heart disease risk factors. Although it has been known for some time that hormone therapy increases the risk of heart disease, the new study suggests that any benefit hormone therapy may provide from treating the prostate cancer may be cancelled out by harms from heart disease, particularly in men who are already at high risk. In these men, the study found an overall increase in mortality related to the hormone therapy. This study may change the risk-benefit equation for many men considering hormone therapy. What is clear is that heart disease risk must be a part of that decision.
This story, in only about 500 words, meets the basic standard for all of our criteria. It is comprehensive in listing the side effects and harms of hormone therapy, which are numerous and varied. It quotes multiple sources and explains the design of the current study. It does a good job of quantifying the risk of heart disease by providing multiple ways of expressing that risk, both absolute and relative terms. The story also mentions the monthly cost of the therapy of $1,400 and that it is taken for 4 months on average.
The story could have been improved by providing more content on the pros and cons of the alternatives to hormone therapy such as radiation/brachytherapy and surgery.
But, overall, this was a good demonstration of how a story can address our ten criteria even in a relatively short piece.
The story mentions the monthly cost of the therapy of $1,400 and that it is taken for 4 months on average.
The story does a good job of quantifying the risk of heart disease by providing multiple ways of expressing that risk, that is in both absolute and relative terms.
The story clearly describes the side effects and harms of hormone therapy, which are numerous and varied.
The story adequately describes the current study, including details about the subjects’ demographics, tumor characteristics, medical conditions and treatments to help readers better interpret the results.
Because the story is clear that the new data concerns men with advanced prostate disease AND a history of heart disease, the story does not engage in disease mongering.
The story quotes two experts who provide valuable perspectives. The story is also clear to point out whether or not they were involved in the current study.
The story also mentions radiation and surgery as alternatives, although it could have provided more content on the pros and cons of these options.
It’s clear from the story that hormone therapy for prostate cancer is widely available.
Clearly hormone therapy for advanced prostate cancer is not a new idea but what is new is that the man’s history of heart disease should be taken into consideration before initiation of treatment.
Because the story quotes multiple sources the reader can assume that it did not rely on a press release as the sole source of information.