More Medical Reporting

I woke up to the news today that the WHO is releasing a report saying that processed meats cause cancer and red meat probably does too.

I haven’t read the WHO release yet, but here’s what I gleaned from the WaPo reporting.

  1. We’re talking about colorectal cancer.
  2. If you eat an “additional” 100 grams of red meat every day, your risk may go up 17%
  3. If you eat an extra 50 grams of processed meat every day, your risk may go up 18%.

So.

I have questions.

  1. In addition to what?
  2. How much is 50 or 100 grams of food?
  3. Most importantly, what does a 17-18% increase in risk mean? To know that, I’d have to know what my risk of developing colorectal cancer is to begin with. Let’s say it’s 5%. So that “extra” red meat will raise my risk to 5.9%?

Hm.

But like the Great ACS Mammography Debate, all most of us hear is

OH MY GAAAAAAAAAWD THAT SLICE OF BACON I HAD WHEN I WAS 12 GAVE ME CANCER.

And more importantly, when we hear about someone getting colorectal cancer, we might think, “Oh well. S/he should have made better food choices.”

And that point of view is devastating to the urgency of unlocking the mysteries of cancer.

Remember: The problem is not the guidelines, it’s our self-destructive urge to boil everything down to a simple headline.

3 thoughts on “More Medical Reporting”

  1. oh i’m just screwed then. i love bacon cheeseburgers. welp, sign me up for the cancers. can i get the pretty pink one please? hahhahahaha

  2. Good critical thinking here. Prob can be seen not only as headline culture/failure to think, but also as irresponsible journalism–failure to adequately explain research findings in practical, even-handed terms.

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