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Perhaps Breakthrough Is Too Strong A Word

Some months I can’t wait for my new issue of Prevention magazine to arrive, just so I can see how they’ve stretched the envelope this time.

How about this month’s cover, trumpeting a Cancer Vaccine Breakthrough in big yellow font at lower left of the cover?

So I started flipping through the Table of Contents for the big story.  Hmmm….nothing there.  Odd.

So I started flipping through the pages of tips for “jiggle-proof arms and abs” and such and….voila…on page 13 I found the big story under another “Cancer Breakthrough” heading.

In 16 words in that little box, I learned that a vaccine was Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Health News Review*

Prevention Magazine Pushes Non-Evidence-Based Heart Screening

Prev. mag pullout.jpgThe February issue of Prevention magazine has an article entitled “Surprising Faces of Heart Attack” profiling “three women (who) didn’t think they were at high risk. Their stories are proof that you could be in danger without even knowing it.” No, their stories are not proof of that.

The story is about three women in their 40s. The story varyingly states that the three should have had the following screening tests:

– Advanced cholesterol test, carotid intimal medial thickness test ( CIMT)
– Advanced cholesterol test and stress echocardiography
– Cardiac calcium scoring and CIMT

 There’s an accompanying piece: ”7 Tests You’re Not Having That Could Save Your Life.”

Harry Demonaco photo.jpgI asked one of our HealthNewsReview.org medical editors, Harold Demonaco, director of the Innovation Support Center at the Massachusetts General Hospital, to review the two pieces. As his day-job title suggests, he deals with review of the evidence for new and emerging healthcare technologies. He wrote: 

The section “7 Tests you are not having that could save your life” states: “If you have not had these cutting edge screenings, put this magazine down and call your doctor. Now.”

Wow. While much of the information is correct, it is the context that is disturbing. Suggesting that these tests are essential in everyone is a bit over the top. Some of the information provided for each test is basically correct. However in some cases the recommendations go well beyond national guidelines.

The major issue here is the tacit assumption that tests are infallible, without any downsides and are always a good thing. That is simply not the case. So who should get these tests? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

Prevention Magazine’s Inaccurate “Coffee Cures” Story

The September issue of Prevention magazine inaccurately headlines the story ”4 Ways Coffee Cures.” There’s no solid proof that coffee cures anything — unless some of you cure bacon with java, which I don’t want to know about.

What the story (below) did was to try to present a cute little graphic summary of observational studies that show a statistical association between increasing coffee consumption and fewer early deaths, fewer deaths from heart attack, fewer cases of dementia, and fewer cases of type 2 diabetes.

But such observational studies (they actually never cite the source — I’m just giving them the benefit of the doubt that they’re citing observational studies) CAN’T establish cause and effect, therefore it’s inaccurate for the story to use terms like “cure,” “protective,” and “lowers (or reduces or slashes) your risk.” Besides being inaccurate, such stories fail to educate readers. They mislead.

We ask the editors of Prevention to read and understand our guide “Does the Language Fit the Evidence? Association versus Causation.

Prevention coffee cures.jpg

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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