Hello and happy Saturday! Here’s our roundup of the week’s interesting and eclectic news in health and medical science.
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There’s a way to cut cancer rates by 50%. Why wasn’t that the Canadian Cancer Society headline?
It’s a question we asked this week with the release of the 2017 Canadian cancer statistics report. It’s an annual event the media treats as “news” even though cancer statistics change very little from one year to the next. That means much depends on the headline.
Every year the Canadian Cancer Society chooses what they want the story to be. Then they highlight their chosen angle in the accompanying news release. They send the media materials to reporters days in advance and insist that nothing be published until they say it’s OK. This year, they set their embargo for Tuesday, June 20, at exactly 3:01 a.m. ET.
So on Tuesday Canadians woke up to the alarming news that nearly one in two of them will get cancer.
It’s a headline that has the potential to be gravely misleading if anyone assumes they personally have a 50/50 chance of getting cancer. There was a reassuring caveat, buried deep in the report, that “the estimated probabilities are for the general Canadian population and should not be interpreted as an individual’s risk.”
The other problem with the headline is that it’s not new. For years, cancer epidemiologists have estimated the lifetime probability of cancer at around 50 per cent.
The only difference this year was the way the statisticians crunched their numbers. It’s a tweak that changed the incidence rate by a fraction of a percentage point over last year.
The scary headline also misses the good news in this report.
‘Because we are healthier, we grow old enough to get cancer.’
– Dr. James Dickinson, University of Calgary
“It is not as bad as first appears,” said Dr. James Dickinson, professor of family medicine at the University…