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Panel nixes aspirin as cancer preventive

Rating

1 Star

Panel nixes aspirin as cancer preventive

Our Review Summary

The story describes a new recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advising that aspirin and other similar drugs not be taken for prevention of colon cancer in people at average risk. The story does appropriately describe the natural history or disease burden of colon cancer without obvious embellishments or overstatements, but many other criteria were not met.  Areas that were lacking included: a discussion of the actual evidence on which the recommendation is based, quantification of the potential benefits, a description of how frequent or severe harms might be, a source that was clearly independent of the study or panel, and a description of alternate colon cancer prevention approaches, like screening and follow-up of any abnormal screening results, particularly given the fact that the story is about a potential prevention approach that is now not advised.  So what else is there?  Readers are not given much context here.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

The article doesn't mention costs of taking aspirin or other such drugs for colon cancer prevention, but most people know they are not costly.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not quantify any benefits.  While it's stated that the benefits don't outweigh the risks, readers have no idea what the chance of benefit (or risks) actually are. 

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

Not Satisfactory

The major risks associated with taking aspirin or other similar drugs for colon cancer prevention are provided, but there is no indication of how frequent or severe these may be. 

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

Not Satisfactory

The article presents no evidence whatsoever for the panel's recommendation.  Readers don't know the strength of the evidence that supports such a recommendation nor anything about the panel itself (made up of 16 primary care physicians with recognized expertise in prevention, evidence-based medicine, and primary care). 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The article appropriately describes the disease burden of colon cancer.  There is no obvious disease mongering. 

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

Not Satisfactory

The story uses only one source and it's not clear whether he is part of the panel or not. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story mentions that people over 50 should be screened for colon cancer, but does not explain how this can be done.  Nor does it does it describe what followup on any abnormal screening result would be.  This is important since this story is about a potential prevention approach that is now not advised.  So what else is there?  Readers are not given much context here. 

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

Not Applicable

Most people would know that these medications can be purchased over the counter with ease. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The article doesn't describe the novelty of using aspirin or other similar drugs for preventing colon cancer.  While it talks about this practice in previous research studies, it isn't clear whether this was a common practice in real-life, an FDA-approved use of these drugs, or whether this was recommended by other groups or doctors prior to this panel's recommendation. 

Total Score: 1 of 7 Satisfactory

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