Promising treatment for lung cancer and the press

Following up on epidemiology showing that diabetics taking metformin have a decreased cancer incidence, new research using mice found further support for pursuing the possibility of using this drug to reduce the risk of lung cancer in general. Though the mechanisms are not fully understood, and there is still the need to do research with humans, this sounds quite promising. (Article link here).

As I was looking at how this finding was reported I found that in general it was exactly as it should be. The researchers were quite conservative in their comments and most reports exhibited good basic journalism and told the story for what it was.

But two reports were interesting and hearken back to our previous posts on tobacco related reporting in the media.

The first example is from the Australian HeraldSun :Diabetes drug reduces cancer in smokers, says new study. After giving over a cursory report of the good news, they just cannot help adding a bit of anti-smoking paternalism (unfortunately quite consistent given that recently Australia has been neck to neck with California in enacting full out health nannyism):

But smokers can’t carry on puffing away thinking they are safe by taking the drug — it does not prevent other smoking-related illnesses such as emphysema and heart problems.

And this Reuters article Diabetes drug may keep lung cancer at bay conforms quite well to our parody post of a while ago on inserting the required Chicken Little elements even if entirely unrelated to the content of the story. After the actual news, we have to finish off this article two short paragraphs saying:

The World Health Organization says tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death globally, killing more than 5 million people each year from heart disease, cancer and lung disease.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 20 percent of U.S. adults smoke. Tobacco kills one-third to one-half of those who smoke.

It really has absolutely nothing to do with the story. Is it just me who sees this as a little strange?

-Paul L. Bergen

6 thoughts on “Promising treatment for lung cancer and the press

  1. No Paul, I find it strange too – although not surprising. People have been brainwashed with the association between smoking & lungcancer for years – they think that LC follows smoking automatically.

    According to this group however, it seems like only roughly 20% of lungcancer cases happens in smokers. The rest is non-smokers and former-smokers:

    Click to access LCA%20Funding%20Fact%20Sheet%202010.pdf

    Can you verify this information? And maybe write a little post on that subject?

    Is it true for instance, that LC can be trigged by smoking cessation?

    Click to access lc_triggered_stop_smoking.pdf

    Klaus K, Denmark

  2. The strange part I was referring to was how that last bit has nothing to do with the research results…they form no logical part of it. Now I suspect this might be a second language issue rather than a content issue because even though it is not certain that you will get lung cancer from smoking, it is one of the better ways to get it, and still considered the major cause. I have never heard of a cessation trigger and it does not sound very likely, but it is true that there is an increased risk for anybody who smoked whether they quit or not. In broad terms, the more you smoke (or have smoked) the higher the chances.

    The smoking-lung cancer connection is not brainwashing. There is plenty of strong evidence supporting it; the issue is more that it is not the biggest risk when smoking even though that is the common association.

  3. Paul, it occurs to me that there may be a nice neat half dozen such comments out there and that virtually every news article about smoking will have at least one to three of them. It might be worth a web page with the six listed and labled (A through F, maybe along with a cute nickname for each) and then when new articles come out they could be analyzed for their appearance.

    E.G. The Reuters Article:

    “Diabetes Drug May Keep Cancer At Bay”


    Soundbite A: The Annual Holocaust


    Soundbite C: The 20% Stat


    Soundbite D: The Dead Half

    Hmm… might be a better word than soundbite though. It’s floating on the edge of my tongue-mind someplace: a little phrase totally void of meaning that gets stuck in automatically or while searching for something substantive to say or to elicit auto-applause or a wave of “Amen Brother!”s

    – MJM

  4. Pingback: Science and Journalism (from Bishopblog) « Tobacco Harm Reduction: News & Opinions

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