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Breast cancer study: Fruits, veggies not the answer


4 Star

Breast cancer study: Fruits, veggies not the answer

Our Review Summary

This is a story presenting the results of a newly published study that found that additional fruit and vegetable consumption did not affect breast cancer recurrence or mortality rates. The finding that there was no benefit observed from higher intakes of fruits and vegetables may be counterintuitive to some people but the article did not provide any explanation for the results reported.  Helping readers understand some of this nuance would be valuable. 

Rather than merely reporting on the study outcome by interviewing two of the researchers involved in the study it would have been interesting to understand the reasoning behind the study to begin with.  All the women in the study reported consuming more daily servings of fruits and vegetables than were recommended as the control and so the fact that additional daily servings did not modify the outcomes of cancer recurrence or death does not seem especially surprising.  It would also have been interesting to see a discussion about why the interim results differed from the final analysis of the trial.



Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

There was no discussion about the costs associated with including fruits and vegetables in the diet, although it’s reasonable to assume that the reader could figure out the costs.

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


The story not only provided the information that the two groups did not differ in terms of rates for breast cancer recurrence or death, but included the estimates of this from the study summary.

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

Not Satisfactory

There was no discussion of potential harms associated with fruit and vegetable consumption, something some might think is unnecessary.  But, for comparison, another story by another news organization did quote the lead investigator as saying there were no harms found with eating fruits and vegetables above a certain threshhold. It could have been addressed in this story.

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


This story included the most relevant information (i.e. breast cancer recurrence and survival rates) from the study but it would been better had it explained that this was a randomized clincial trial and not merely an epidemiologic study.

It might have been of interest to readers to know that the two groups differed in terms of the number of daily fruit and vegetable servings were recommended but both groups started out consuming more than the 5 daily servings recommended to the control group and that by the end of the story, self reported intake had dropped off in the intervention group.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


This story did not engage in disease mongering.

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

Not Satisfactory

This story included comments from two of the study’s authors but failed to get any independent perspective.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story failed to mention other breast cancer recurrence strategies (avoiding weight gain, medications, etc.).  Especially as the outcome of the study reported on was to show no benefit, other options that have demonstrated efficacy for decreasing risk recurrence could have been mentioned.

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

Not Applicable

This criterion does not apply in this story.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story was explicit that it was reporting on the results of a recently published study.

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


Does not appear to rely exclusively on a press release.

Total Score: 5 of 8 Satisfactory


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