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Aspirin Linked to Lower Pancreatic Cancer Risk

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Aspirin Linked to Lower Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Our Review Summary

Despite a few attempts at caveats, this story still used misleading language pointing to possible benefits – from a study that can’t establish cause and effect or benefits.

Readers also are not given sufficient context on the true scope of the “29% lower risk.”

And the story appears to be based solely on a news release, with no input from an independent source.

 

Why This Matters

Pancreatic cancer is an ugly problem.  Stories about it deserve more context than this.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Not applicable.  Readers should know the lost cost of aspirin.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story said that aspirin users were 29% less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who used other types of pain relievers or nothing at all.  But what was that baseline rate?  It’s impossible for readers to judge the scope of the potential benefits when given just the 29% figure. 29% of what?

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

Not Satisfactory

All the story said was that aspirin “carries some side effects.” It never explained what they are nor how often they may occur.  Even one additional line in the story could have done this.

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

Not Satisfactory

While the story explained that such a study can’t establish cause and effect, it nonethless still used language suggesting possible beneficial effects: www.healthnewsreview.org/tips-for-understanding-studies.php#tip4

  • lower pancreatic cancer risk in the headline
  • “Preventing pancreatic cancer may be an additional benefit” in the opening sentence

The language used to describe observational studies is important to avoid misleading readers.  And it doesn’t take much to make these changes. See our primer.

The story also never addressed the limitations of drawing conclusions based on talks at scientific meetings, which have not undergone rigorous peer review. We have a primer on that topic as well.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Applicable

Not applicable only because the story really didn’t give any background on pancreatic cancer, so it couldn’t have disease mongered.

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

Not Satisfactory

No independent source is quoted.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

We’re really not given any context or background about pancreatic cancer in this short, 320-word story.  And we certainly didn’t learn of any other research into ways to prevent pancreatic cancer.

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

Not Applicable

Not applicable.  The availability of aspirin is not in question.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

We’re not given any context about whether this is the first and only research that looked at this question.

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

Not Satisfactory

It appears that the story was based solely on a news release, since the researcher quote comes from a news release.  And no independent source is cited.

Total Score: 0 of 7 Satisfactory

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