How to Read the Medical Research News


Debbie says:

I’m a regular listener to On the Media, the long-running radio show which dissects how the media report the news. I really appreciate their Breaking News Consumer Handbooks. They recently revisited this one because of Accelerated Evolution Biotech, Ltd. the Israeli company that announced they were close to a cure for cancer “within the year,” a cure that would be “brief, cheap, effective, and have no or minimal side-effects.”

Let’s see how that stacks up:

Unsurprisingly, the AEBi claims fail some of these tests, especially:

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is a good rule for almost everything, and especially applicable to magical medical news.
  • Watch for hyperbolic language. AEBi pulled out all the stops on that one. I especially note how they said “within the year.”
  • There is a leap from mice to men. Yes, and that’s where AEBi’s “within the year” becomes even less plausible.

The day the AEBi news broke, one of my smartest friends called me to say how excited she was. I knew she was over-reacting (everyone wants a cure for cancer), but I didn’t have this kind of rigorous evaluation tool to hand. Next time I will.

There are over 20 of these Breaking News Consumer’s Handbooks, and they cover everything from Islamophobia to active shooter stories, from SCOTUS to data breaches. I really appreciate their clear, simple-but-not-dumb, practical approach to the flood of information, misinformation, and misleading information we get every day.