publication date: Feb. 14, 2014


By Otis W. Brawley

Studies assessing the merits of cancer screening tend to get a lot of play in the news media. It seems every six months or so a new study makes a big splash.

I can see why the press would want to interview experts who hold a variety of opinions, yet I worry that that he-said/she-said coverage of these stories often creates a situation where the press and we in medicine misinform the public.

All too often, our conflicts of interest—emotional more than financial—get in the way of the truth and overshadow reason.

Earlier this week, the British Medical Journal published a 25-year update from the Canadian National Breast Screening Study. This study was really two clinical trials that enrolled nearly 90,000 women in their 40s and 50s beginning in 1980.

The report received front-page headlines in major newspapers and was the lead story on several television news programs.

Most journalists and experts simply got the finding wrong. It was widely stated that the study showed that screening didn’t save lives. In reality, the study had a subtle, but important and very different finding: it found no benefit for routine mammography and clinical breast examination, compared to standard care for women in their 40s, and no benefit for mammography for women in their 50s.

All women in their 50s in the both intervention and control arms received CBE.

The fact that this study did screen the control group of women in their 50s with clinical breast … Continue reading 40-07 Guest Editorial

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