Saturday, March 27, 2010

Headlines can misinform....

As we all know, folks believe what they read, especially if it agrees with what they want to be true. So when a headline that states "Long-Term Breast-Feeding Tied to More Aggressive Cancers" (which, by the way, I could not find on PubMed to read critically), http://www.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=637427 I am concerned.

In fact, in this news coverage, there is little comment on the fact that Dr S Butt reports on a subgroup representing only about 3.6% of the entire sample. Without reading the study, one must wonder why this small percent chose to feed their children so differently than their fellow Swedes. When dealing with a tiny subgroup such at this, it is vital to explore this question. We often see odd findings in outliers in large study populations. For example, are these folks with family histories of breast cancer? Are they eating a different diet or living in a different area from the vast majority? Are they an ethnic subgrouping? And, as the researchers note, it could be that women who breastfeed long have such aggressive cancers (rather than having more and other cancers) but do they do better with them?

Without the answers to these questions, such findings are only useful as an idea for further exploration, but should not be presented to the public in such a manner to be potentially misunderstood and misleading.

We all thank that site for all they do to help keep the public informed - while we also add a word of caution...

2 comments:

Nicole, Billy , Timothy and the Bean said...

Thank you for posting about this, Miriam. I saw an article about the study yesterday, and I found it appalling and irresponsible that the media just seems to be jumping on the bandwagon and positing this study as being true - it's stuff like that this that the formula-supporters and breastfeeding naysayers just love to hang their hats on. Sad, really. And as if so many mamas out there need one more negative thing to give them pause when they're deciding whether to initiate breastfeeding, or whether to wean prematurely.

Top Breastfeeding Benefits said...

I totally agree, it is such rubish!! I just dont understand why ?! why?!