to the Wrong Conclusion
We are fortunate
to live in a world that provides us with information, lots of it and instantaneous.
Newspapers, radio, TV and now the Net report breaking news as fast as
a reporter can type. The problem is that to fill all these sources with
quality information is a tough job. Sound bites and catchy headlines bring
a higher audience rating. The tons of information that flood our media
tends to be simplified and sensationalized.
is done with scientific studies we get confusing information. The latest
evidence is the news that a high fiber diet does not reduce the incidence
of colon cancer. Two large studies published in The New England Journal
of Medicine on April 20, 2000 reported these results. The results
of the Harvard Nurses Health Study that were published in January 1999
said basically the same thing. For years, reports have been coming out
that a high fiber diet prevented colon cancer. Now it seems that the first
study reports were premature.
cancer news this happens all the time.
reports that soy
will prevent breast cancer while another says that the estrogen
like compounds found in soy can be harmful
for breast cancer patients with estrogen receptor positive tumors.
reports that hormone replacement therapy for post-menopausal women with
a high risk of breast cancer should avoid the treatment while another
study shows that it is beneficial.
increase your risks - wait, no, there's no
link between dietary fats and breast cancer.
news events surrounding high dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplants
are another example. First the benefits were inconclusive,
then it was a miracle treatment, then fraud in a study threw the procedure
into question and now some
studies are suggesting that there may
be some benefits to it after all.
are confused, and they are, what are we supposed to do. These studies
are not just academic exercises for those involved with the day to day
struggle to fight breast cancer. Life and death decisions are being made
based on this information. How are we to know what information is from
a poorly designed study or one where the researcher's bias clouded the
ways to weed out the bad information.
to the source.
Someone else's interpretation of a study may be based on what they wanted
to hear and not on the facts. Make sure you get your information directly
from the research and not from media reports. Go to pub-med
or scirus and pull up the
studies that you need to see. Most of the online references have a way
to contact the researchers directly. Write, call or email them with your
questions. Researchers love to discuss their work.
jump to the wrong conclusions.
A study that cranberries
prevented breast cancer tumors in mice does not mean that eating cranberries
will cure breast cancer or prevent it. Mice are not people. Take the knowledge
and wait for the studies that confirm that cranberries have been found
to prevent breast cancer in humans before you go on a strictly cranberry
diet. It may well be that the amount of cranberries needed to prevent
breast cancer in humans will provide a toxic dose of some other ingredient
in cranberries, or that cranberries just don't have the same effect on
human cells as they do on mice no matter how many you eat.
to your doctor.
Part of your doctor's training involved reading research and looking for
bad science. Bring the studies to your appointment and ask questions.
If your doctor doesn't have time or isn't interested in your information
-- find one who is. That doesn't mean find a doctor who agrees with you,
but one who is too busy to think about your situation and talk to you
may not be providing the kind of support you need.
updated March 31, 2006