NOTE TO READERS: When this project lost substantial funding at the end of 2018, I lost the ability to continue publishing criteria-driven news story reviews and PR news release reviews - once the bread-and-butter of the site going back to 2006. The 3,200 archived reviews, while still educational, are getting old and difficult for me to technically maintain on the back end of the website. So I am announcing that I plan to remove these reviews from the site by April 1, 2021. The blog and the toolkit - two of the most popular features on the site - will remain. If you wish to peruse the reviews before they disappear, please do so by the end of March 2021. After that date you may still be able to access them via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine -
Read Original Story

Can painkillers prevent melanoma?


5 Star



Can painkillers prevent melanoma?

Our Review Summary

Instead, this story clearly and efficiently reported what was found and why:

  • “it’s just too early”
  • “the jury’s still out”
  • one expert said: “I wouldn’t recommend (taking NSAIDs to reduce melanoma) just based on this” new study,

We were a bit puzzled, though, why the story never mentioned that the study in question also looked at statins and found “no significant protective effect was observed with statin exposure.” Negative findings deserve publicity as well.


Why This Matters

A story that could have been hyped was saved by an important independent expert perspective in the piece.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Costs aren’t discussed, but everyone should know the costs of aspirin, ibuprofen or related painkillers.

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


The story adequately explained: “..more than 40 percent of people who were cancer-free said they’d been taking NSAIDs at least once per week for more than 5 years, versus only 28 percent of those who developed melanoma.”

More importantly, it quoted one expert, “I wouldn’t recommend (taking NSAIDs to reduce melanoma) just based on this” new study.

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


The story stated: “NSAIDs – which include aspirin, naproxen (marketed as Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil) — have side effects, she noted, such as stomach bleeding.”  It didn’t note whether study looked at side effects in those taking them for five years. Still, we’ll rule this satisfactory for remembering to include some mention of potential harms.

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


The story includes this evaluation by an expert:  “Unfortunately, the technique — comparing people with melanoma to those without – is fraught with potential problems, said Asgari. For one, you have to get the comparison right, she noted; there’s always a concern that people without cancer who agree to participate in the study may be more health conscious to begin with, and it’s this that protects them from cancer, not their use of NSAIDs. “Did you somehow get a biased sample of people, and is that why you’re seeing this difference?”

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease-mongering of melanoma in the story.

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


The story turned to Dr. Maryam Asgari of Kaiser Permanente Northern California and the University of California San Francisco, who co-authored a 2008 study.  Oddly, no author/researcher on the new study was quoted.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

It’s curious that the story never mentioned that the study also looked at statins and found “no significant protective effect was
observed with statin exposure.”  Why wasn’t that mentioned? Negative findings deserve publicity as well.

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

Not Applicable

Not applicable.  There isn’t any question about the availability of aspirin, ibuprofen or related painkillers.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story gave some historical context:  “Animal experiments have suggested that the class of painkillers known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) could play a role in preventing melanoma, but a large 2008 study failed to find any evidence to support this possibility.”

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


It’s clear that the story did not rely solely on a news release.

Total Score: 7 of 8 Satisfactory


Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.