Cure for cancer but no cure for misleading health stories

Remember this from yesterday’s Express front page?

The article makes the very bold claim that:

A ONE-size-fits-all drug described as the “holy grail” of cancer cures will be available within a few years, British scientists revealed yesterday.

But do the Express’ claims match up to what the scientists actually said?

Well, as Behind the Headlines says:

The scientists in question were in fact much more cautious when reporting their own research, which was a laboratory study looking at a gene called WWP2 that is present in all cells. The gene can produce a group of different proteins that in turn regulate other proteins that normally prevent tumours from spreading in different ways. The researchers hope eventually to modify this process with drugs so that they can cure cancer. However, this was still a very preliminary laboratory study and no such drug has yet been found. In short, such a wide-ranging cure is much further away than the headline suggests.

This carefully conducted study was complex and featured a range of tests examining the proteins and genes thought to be involved in the spread of cancers. However, it did not directly model the ‘spreading’ action of cancer cells, and further research must now test how the chemical processes identified work in real–world settings.

The story was also covered by the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail and the BBC, but only the Express chose to run it as its main story.

Behind the Headlines further add:

Some newspapers have correctly pointed out that this research was preliminary in nature, while others have wrongly implied that a cure for cancer will be available soon.

And this is merely the latest in a whole catalogue of misleading front page health stories from the Express.

Last November, the Express ran a front page story claiming that a pill to slow down the ageing process was on the way. However, this claim was premature at best.

In December, the Express said on its front page that aspirin “stops many cancers”. However, Behind the Headlines was careful to point out that:

the study does not present strong enough evidence for aspirin to be universally recommended.

And that:

People who want to start taking aspirin should speak to their GP first. Importantly, the doses examined here were low, at only 75mg a day, which is a quarter of what over-the-counter pills for pain-relief contain.

In November, Tabloid Watch highlighted the Express’ love/hate relationship with statins; claiming that they’re a “wonder drug” one day and a “risk to health” the next.

And in April, Tabloid Watch covered the Express’ love/hate relationship with the fry-up; claiming “DEATH BY FRY-UP” on it’s front page one day before naming the fry-up as the “healthiest start to the day” the next.

Almost every newspaper in circulation is guilty of similarly misleading health stories, but only the Daily Express chooses to run these stories on its front page on a regular basis. Surely stories given prominence deserve a bit more caution and accuracy.

1 Comment

Filed under Media and journalism

One Response to Cure for cancer but no cure for misleading health stories

  1. Anonymous

    They really must learn to express themselves better.

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