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Daily aspirin use may decrease prostate risks

Rating

2 Star

Daily aspirin use may decrease prostate risks

Our Review Summary

The article describes a recent observational study which suggests aspirin may be associated with lower risk for urinary symptoms of an enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The article describes the evidence–namely that it was based on an observational study and not a randomized controlled trial–but limitations of observational studies were not described to readers (e.g. the effects observed may have been caused by other factors). Other areas for improvement include: reporting benefits in absolute terms (absolutely better than using relative terms); the nature of BPH is not described, particularly that this is not a cancerous or life-threatening condition; other treatment alternatives are not described; the only source of information is from the lead investigator, which could be biasing; and there is no information on harms or costs of daily aspirin use for this purpose. Although this was clearly intended as a “brief,” the discussion of this study was just too brief to help readers understand the evidence.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The article does not mention any costs of these medications if taken on a daily basis or per dose.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story describes benefits in relative terms vs. absolute rates (which is the gold standard). It also does not tell readers that the most benefit was seen in older men.

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

Not Satisfactory

The article does not mention any harms of using daily aspirin (like bleeding).

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

Not Satisfactory

The article acknowledges that the study was observation and not a placebo-controlled trial, but there is no interpretation or discussion about the limitations of this. The article also uses language that minimizes the poor quality of the evidence and hypes the findings (“Still, we were surprised by the strength of the association…).

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

The article provides very limited information about prostate enlargement, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH. Of note, this condition is not cancerous or life-threatening. Also, the article mentions a possible benefit being lower PSA levels, noting that this is a common blood test for prostate cancer. This implies that using aspirin or other similar drugs for BPH can also reduce a man’s chance of prostate cancer, for which there is no evidence. In fact, elevated PSA levels can often be due to conditions like BPH and not due to cancer; with less enlargement of the prostate, it’s not unexpected to also find lower PSA levels. The broad use of the term “urological problems” also seems to overstate what the study was about, evaluating a specific condition (BPH).

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

Not Satisfactory

The article only quotes the lead investigator, which can be biasing. The article did not quote an independent source of information.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The article does not discuss any other treatment options, including watchful waiting (no active treatment), medications like 5-alpha reductase inhibitors or alpha blockers, minimally invasive therapies, and surgery.

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

Satisfactory

The article mentions medications like aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen, all of which are currently available (and available without a prescription, although this is not explicitly stated).

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story names the drugs studied–aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen–none of which is new to the market. This is a new use of existing medications.

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

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure if the story relied largely on a news release, although it is troubling that only one source – the lead investigator – is quoted.

Total Score: 2 of 9 Satisfactory

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