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Read Original Story

Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer


3 Star

Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer

Our Review Summary

Back and forth this story goes: 

  • From "bitter melon extract may slow, stop breast cancer"
  • To "But lab results must be repeated in animals and humans"
  • From "It kills the breast cancer cells"
  • To "But their work was done in a laboratory, not humans"
  • From "I don’t believe it will cure cancer" (researcher quote)
  • To "It will probably delay or perhaps have some prevention" (researcher quote)
  • To – finally – "Eating bitter melon extract could also have a beneficial effect"

Using the word "also"  in that last quote implies that some other beneficial effect has already been established in this study and story. 

It hasn’t.

This was petri dish research.  "Intriguing," as the Cancer Society expert said.  But it’s difficult to say much more. Yet this story was republished by BusinessWeek,, and other news organizations!


Why This Matters

If journalists were going to report about every agent that looked effective against cancer cells in a petri dish, they wouldn’t have room to publish anything else.  Is there an editorial policy in place?  Will ALL such stories be reported?


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Costs weren’t mentioned.  It took us only a few seconds to find out how much this stuff is sold for online.

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

Not Satisfactory

Potential benefits were exaggerated far beyond what this laboratory-only research showed.  Again, the story stated:

  • extract of bitter melon may help protect women
  • "It will probably delay or perhaps have some prevention."  (researcher quote)
  • Eating bitter melon could also have a beneficial effect.

Also?  No human benefit was proven in this story!

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

Not Applicable

Not applicable.  You can’t talk about harms from an agent that’s only been tested in a petri dish.  But, then again, you really can’t say much at all. Yet they made a news story out of this.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does inject a few caveats about the study:

  • the work was done in a laboratory not in humans
  • lab test results must be repeated in animals and humans

But it didn’t give any context for how many other agents have looked good in the lab but failed to pan out in animals much less humans.  Instead, it played editorial ping pong with readers, because it also stated: 

  • extract of bitter melon may help protect women
  • "It will probably delay or perhaps have some prevention."  (researcher quote)
  • Eating bitter melon could also have a beneficial effect.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Applicable

Not applicable because there really wasn’t any meaningful discussion of breast cancer.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story included the American Cancer Society expert’s recommendations for breast cancer prevention.

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


The story states that bitter melon extract is a popular nutritional supplement and is a common vegetable in India, China and South America.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

There’s been a lot of research for a long time on bitter melon extract.  We quickly found one study from as far back as 1983.  The story didn’t provide any of that context.

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


The story did include a comment from an American Cancer Society expert, so it doesn’t appear to rely solely on a news release.

Total Score: 4 of 8 Satisfactory


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