The HealthDay story covers a study presented at a recent conferenceand appropriately states that “conclusions should be viewed as preliminary.” However, there were some problems with the article:
The story highlights the difficulty in covering presentations from academic conferences, especially since a peer-reviewed, published journal article is not yet available for background and reference. Although this was a short story, it could have been much more thorough with a short comment from the principal investigator and also from an independent source.
The costs of over-the-counter drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen are not in question.
The only benefit mentioned in the story was the “roughly 30 percent lower rate of death from colorectal cancer,” as stated in the press release, but 30 percent of what?
There was no mention of potential harms of prolonged aspirin use, such as stomach bleeding and gastrointestinal ulcers.
While the article does caution that the study does not “prove a cause-and-effect,” it should have expanded on that statement and explained the limitations of the study. The story does not mention if other variables were accounted for, or if the researchers found any other correlations in their study, which seems likely. However, it does point out that the study “data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.”
There is no disease-mongering, but the story did not provide any context or epidemiology on colorectal cancer.
There were no independent sources cited from outside the study. The only comment came from a doctoral student at the University of Washington.
The story failed to detail any existing alternatives for colorectal cancer, such as targeted drug therapies for people with advanced colon cancer.
Aspirin and ibuprofen are widely available in US pharmacies.
Aspirin is not a new drug.
The story clearly was based on a press release by the American Association for Cancer Research. Similar language and the same quotations were used. In fact, the press release was a bit more thorough than the actual HealthDay article. There was not any evidence of original reporting.