Monday, February 8, 2010

If you see this, will you recognize it?

I write medical articles for "average" readers. Also known as "consumer" articles - a term that covers a wide and bumpy landscape. The medical articles I write are fact-checked by an editor, first, and then reviewed by an MD.

In other words, I don't write the hype you're likely to see on a glossy magazine (THE SNACK FOOD THAT CAN KILL YOU! see page 64) or blurbs you're likely to hear from a newscaster at 6:59pm ("Are donuts good for you? tune in at eleven!" [big smile, cue music]).

So I'll be interested in following a story on the possible/probable link between sweetened carbonated beverages and pancreatic cancer.

I'm jaded. I'm pretty sure the nitty gritty facts (a controlled study of more than 60,000 adults over 14 years found those who consumed two or more cans of pop each week were more than 87% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who drank less pop) will be obscured in "news reports" or - more probably, and more maddening - simply ignored.

If I think about this too long, I'll start replaying Men In Black in my head; I'm thinking about the scene where K (Tommy Lee Jones) goes to the hot sheets to get some good leads on the bug that's invaded Manhattan.  The hot sheets are the National Enquirer and the like.

The irony is that while most of the "mainstream" media ignores studies like the one described above, a lot of dubious/alternative sites report on such studies to further their own agendas. (Acai berries, anyone?)

Readers beware. And journalists - is there a story in the Singapore pop study? Or is there a story in why it isn't a story? I think so.

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