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Fish Oil Supplements Linked to Lower Risk of Breast Cancer: Study

Rating

4 Star

Fish Oil Supplements Linked to Lower Risk of Breast Cancer: Study

Our Review Summary

You can read the full review below.  But we don’t want to overlook what a big thing it is to see improvement in the two areas already noted.  Keep it up, HealthDay.

 

Why This Matters

Breast cancer risk is not a one-size-fits-all story.  It’s age-dependent.  And this story should have pushed the researchers for age-specific breakdowns. 

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Not applicable.  No discussion of costs, but we think it’s common knowledge that these supplements are inexpensive.

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

Not Satisfactory

We have problems with the way this was handled.  The subhead said, "32 percent reduced odds seen in postmenopausal women." But readers need to know 32% of what?  It also explained that the study surveyed "women who were between the ages of 50 and 76 and all past menopause."  But risk rises with age.  So baseline risk in a 50 year-old is different than that in a 76-year old.  So we would have preferred seeing absolute numbers for those in their 50s, 60s and 70s to make the message more meaningful. 

 

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

Not Applicable

Not applicable.  No discussion of harms, but this is not a serious issue in this case.

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

Satisfactory

We’re very pleased to see HealthDay include the line: "we should not draw any conclusions about a causal relationship." The study was "observational" only, and not a randomized trial that compared the use of fish oil with a group not using fish oil and the effect on cancer rates."

And the independent expert saying, "The lower risk of breast cancer among women taking fish oil supplements could be due to chance."

(For comparison, an ABC News headline read, "Breast Cancer Risk Lowered by Fish Oil."  That is far too definitive, and, thus, inaccurate.

The story also touched on how squishy was the evidence when it quoted the researcher: "She could not quantify the amount of fish oil supplements consumed, because "current use" was defined as any amount taken by a woman. "Most women used it four to seven days a week. We don’t know how much," she noted"

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No overt disease mongering.

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

Satisfactory

An important comment was made by an independent expert from the American Cancer Society: "The lower risk of breast cancer among women taking fish oil supplements could be due to chance."

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

There could have been at least one line about other research looking at lowering the risk of breast cancer.

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

Not Applicable

The availability of fish oil supplements is not in question.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story quoted the researcher saying "while studies examining the link between consuming fish or omega-3 fatty acids and breast cancer risk have produced inconsistent results, this is the first study that suggested a connection between fish oil supplements and reduced breast cancer risk."

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

Satisfactory

It does not appear  that the story relied solely on a news release.

Total Score: 5 of 7 Satisfactory

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