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Grand Slam Champ: John McEnroe Raising Awareness On Cancer


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Grand Slam Champ: John McEnroe Raising Awareness On Cancer

Our Review Summary

This has been a very good week for former tennis star John McEnroe. But not so good for men who may have seen him on TV.

  • A prime time appearance on CNN’s Larry King Live promoting prostate cancer screening
  • A CBS Early Show appearance promoting prostate cancer screening

And he was getting paid all the time by a drug company – something clearly noted on the website that McEnroe promoted – but something CBS never disclosed on the air.  

CBS merely turned over the network to this drug company sponsored message – a message that has the support of the American Urological Association but that lacks the support of other respected medical organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the US Preventive Services Task Force.  

Another terrible example of the one-sided – potentially harmful – information often disseminated on the network TV morning programs.  


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There was no discussion of the cost of prostate cancer screening or treatment.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

Guess what?  The tennis star – whose appearance was being paid for by a drug company – didn’t discuss any evidence.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There was no discussion of the harms of prostate cancer screening.  The US Preventive Services Task Force reminds men:

Potential harms from PSA screening include additional medical visits, adverse effects of prostate biopsies, anxiety, and overdiagnosis (the identification of prostate cancer that would never have caused symptoms in the patient’s lifetime, leading to unnecessary treatment and associated adverse effects). Much uncertainty surrounds which cases of prostate cancer require treatment and whether earlier detection leads to improvements in duration or quality of life.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

Updated American Urological Association guidelines suggest that men start PSA screening at age 40. But updated American Cancer Society recommendations state something quite different – something not expressed in this CBS segment, namely:

The American Cancer Society (ACS) does not support routine testing for prostate cancer at this time. ACS does believe that health care professionals should discuss the potential benefits and limitations of prostate cancer early detection testing with men before any testing begins. This discussion should include an offer for testing with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE) yearly, beginning at age 50, to men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and have at least a 10-year life expectancy.

And the US Preventive Services Task Force states:

  •  that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening in men younger than age 75 years. The USPSTF recommends against screening for prostate cancer in men age 75 years or older.

That’s evidence – not crusading by an ex-tennis star being paid by a drug company.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

CBS let the tennis star get away with saying:

(McEnroe:) "When they started this campaign they were looking for 50 year olds. … But since then they’ve talked about being tested even earlier. The American Urological Association has said 40 is the new time to go out there."

The American Urological Association may have said that but many other medical expert groups do not endorse that recommendation.  

So the CBS report didn’t practice journalism – but, rather, unchallenged advocacy of a particular belief.  And the network TV fear-mongering to everyone 40 and over is unacceptable.  

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

An overwhelming "UNSATISFACTORY" score on this.  The only source was the former tennis star, promoting one medical organization’s early promotion of prostate cancer screening – a recommendation not shared by other leading medical expert organizations.   

The segment allowed the tennis star to promote a website –  – that clearly states:

GlaxoSmithKline funded and helped develop this campaign, including providing compensation to Mr. McEnroe.

That sponsorship was never disclosed on the air.   

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The option of not being screened – a very viable option for men – was never even discussed.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Applicable

The availability of prostate cancer screening is not in question. If anything, questions about overtesting should have been discussed but weren’t. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Applicable

no claims of novelty were made

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Satisfactory

In essence, CBS caved in on a huge public relations campaign promoting prostate cancer awareness without using any expert medical source for this segment.  The segment refers viewers to a website – – that is funded by a drug company.  That was never disclosed on the air.

Total Score: 0 of 8 Satisfactory


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