Can drinking alcohol really help us live longer? According to a recently published study, the answer is … maybe.
You probably guessed that was coming.
Although moderate alcohol intake in older adults previously has been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and death, recent studies have suggested little, if any, health benefit in consuming alcohol, as The New York Times reported last year. Continue reading
The first person that a health reporter nearly always reaches out to when writing about a medical study is the study’s corresponding author. That person – often but not always the lead author as well – is the officially designated contact person for the research. Reporters may ultimately end up interviewing a different author, or several of them, but the corresponding author holds a lot of power as the formally designated first contact.
It’s probably no surprise that (at least when it comes to phase 3 cancer trials) that the lead author is a man four times out of five. Continue reading
“Too much red meat can cause cancer.” It’s a depressing statement for the bacon and beef lovers out there, but it’s a part of nearly every major medical organization’s evidence-based guidelines for several years.
In fact, as I was covering the North American Menopause Society’s annual meeting last weekend, the session on lifestyle risk factors for breast cancer specifically included limiting consumption of red meat and processed meats as one of the 10 recommendations for reducing cancer risk from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund. Continue reading
Physicians in all fields of medicine rely on guidelines developed by professional medical organizations to inform how they care for patients. These guidelines, whether defining what counts as hypertension or laying out how best to care for pregnant women, constitute the standard of care in that particular field. To call them influential is a huge understatement.
Since most of these guidelines discuss treatments, it’s reasonable to pay attention to whether those writing the guidelines might have a bias for or against a particular treatment that’s not based on evidence. It’s impossible to be certain of this for all guideline authors, but ensuring they aren’t receiving big checks from industry is one way to guard against bias. Continue reading
How much does the way you cover a study matter? If we judge that question on the basis of how your coverage might influence a reader’s opinion about a treatment’s benefit, it matters quite a bit, suggest the results of a recent study in BMC Medicine that examined spin in news stories about clinical studies.
In short, news articles that included spin in their coverage of a study about a particular treatment were more likely to leave readers with a positive impression of the treatment’s benefit.
Photo: Esther Dyson via Flickr
To effectively report on medical research, you should understand how big a difference that an intervention or an exposure makes.
Absolute risk can be the best for this, but many studies report other comparisons as well. Sometimes a study reports this effect size — the magnitude of difference between two groups — in terms that literally are Greek to me: Continue reading