We simply don’t know why more news organizations can’t do an adequate job of explaining the limitations of observational studies – most notably, that they can’t prove cause and effect.
Yes, they can show strong associations. But they can’t prove cause and effect.
NBC Nightly News, as one example recently, inadequately explained the latest suggestion that coffee consumption can lower the risk of prostate cancer. In the anchor lead, Brian Williams framed this as another case of flip-flopping science, lightheartedly talking about what they say about “all those medical studies…if you don’t like the findings, wait for the next study.”
The story seemed puzzled at how the same “lab” 30 years ago reported that coffee was linked to an increase in pancreatic cancer. NBC said the researchers later said they got it wrong. This time – with the prostate cancer link – they say they got it right. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*