The story missed an opportunity to explain the inherent limitations in drawing conclusions from such an observational study. And its use of relative risk reduction figures is bothersome. Why not just give the absolute numbers from each group in the study? That would be far more meaningful and helpful.
There could be boilerplate language that stories could use to start to educate readers about what observational studies CAN’T PROVE. In fact, we suggest some in a primer elsewhere on this site.
Not applicable. Not discussed, but it should be general knowledge that they’re relatively inexpensive.
Only relative risk reduction figures were used – "32% reduced risk." But readers should be told "32% of what?" What were the actual absolute numbers in the group that took the supplements versus the numbers in the group that didn’t take the supplements. Why is that so difficult to include? It would be far more meaningful than 32%.
Not applicable. No harms were discussed but this is not a serious issue in this case.
One good thing was the quote: "There is some limited evidence from my study and others that fish oil may be good for preventing breast cancer, but there is not sufficient evidence to make a public health recommendation right now," cautions study researcher Emily White, PhD, an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
However, the story missed an opportunity to ever explain WHY a study like this is insufficient evidence. It never explained the inherent limitations in drawing conclusions from an observational study – something this story’s HealthDay competition did a better job on.
No overt disease mongering.
Four different sources were quoted – a strength of the story.
At the very least, the story included the fact that "Other supplements were not linked to breast cancer risk in the new study, including black cohosh, dong quai, soy, and St. John’s wort, which are often taken to relieve some of the symptoms of menopause."
The availability of fish oil supplements is not in question.
We were given some context by the following quotes:
It’s clear that the story did not rely solely on a news release.