By Sandy K. Johnson
“Deaths from cancer would be practically eliminated and cures accomplished if persons afflicted sought medical aid immediately upon the discovery of a foreign growth in any part of the body.” The New York Times, June 8, 1924
Well, not quite.
Dr. Barry Kramer, director of cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute, used this inaccurate (and laughable, in retrospect) story to illustrate the importance of meticulous reporting on science and medical studies and pronouncements.
He urged journalists to:
- Act as bridge and gatekeeper to the public. Ask yourself, “What’s really valid and useful?”
- Serve as honest brokers of new information to the public.
- Convey the strength of the evidence.
- Understand strengths and limitations of study designs.
- Report new findings in the context of existing knowledge.
Kramer also passed along two key resources for journalists covering cancer:
The PDQ cancer information summaries are comprehensive, evidence-based summaries on topics that cover adult and pediatric cancer treatment, supportive and palliative care, screening, prevention, genetics, and complementary and alternative medicine.
The Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program works to provide information on cancer statistics in an effort to reduce the burden of cancer among the U.S. population. SEER is an authoritative source of information on cancer incidence and survival in the United States. SEER currently collects and publishes cancer incidence and survival data from population-based cancer registries covering approximately 28 percent of the U.S. population. Reporters can access any of the available Cancer Stat Fact Sheets or create their own “Fast Stats” sheets.