Cancer info…watch what you read!

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Hello again.  Today I want to mention a few things about information that you will encounter on weekly basis in news, blogs, TV and such.

The first piece of advice (coming from a long time cancer researcher) is to simply be careful with the information you read.  Unless you are trained in the area of cancer, or statistics, or sometimes even psychology; it if often very hard to tell if the authors are being truthful or not.  Even if they are for real, it is very difficult to tell if the conclusions they make from their statements are true.  For example, people who love to drink coffee will look at the recent studies which show a positive impact on coffee drinking and prostate cancer and they will state that the studies now prove that all men should drink lots of coffee to avoid prostate cancer. If you don’t read the original information (and how many of us go back tot he original source these days)  and rely simply on the one blog you read, you may miss out on the fact that this study is an association study.  That means that there is no proof at all, only a link between those who drank lots of coffee or ten to twenty years and the risk of one kind of cancer.  You wont know that for women and breast cancer the studies are not the same as for men and prostate cancer.  So, read lots of stuff and stay informed, but read things carefully and with a grain of salt.

As you start to read more and more you will find that you can spot more and more errors or exaggerations more easily.  It comes only after you have started to see themes repeated over and over.  Then and only then can you start to pick up on how some folks will mold the truth around something they feel strongly in and hide certain details that will detract from their biases.  We all have biases one way or the other and that is OK, but the reader must understand this and should over time read things (about cancer in this case) from people on both sides of the same issue if possible.

What kind of blogs and information web sites are there and which ones should you be more careful about.

1.  The information only website.  The NIH and other cancer information promoting websites are usually going to be pretty good and trustworthy.  These wont bias you so much in one way or the other, but they will usually steer you away from alternative forms of therapy or avoid other issues that have less scientific validity.  There is nothing wrong with that and you just need to go see other websites if you want to learn more about those other area.  Many of these (like mine at Cancer Made Simple) will have trained scientists on their staff.

2.  Blog from people who had or have cancer.  These are a great source of information from people who have been there and done that.  These can be very fun to read and full of interesting information.  They are very useful for people who have the same or similar type of cancer that the blogger had or taking care of someone with that condition.  They, however can be subject to a lot of bias and it all depends on the prior experiences and disposition of the blogger him or herself.  Either way, they make great reading and tend to be less scientific but more day-to-day experiential.

3.  Blog or websites from retailers- be most careful with these (even with large companies).  Larger companies that have drugs or agents that are FDA approved and based on years of very good clinical data are of course more trustworthy that those who don’t have that.  However, companies are very VERY good and making their data look good and have huge budgets for marketing their products (of course legally) but often can mislead us.  However , the biggest problem out there lies in these very small companies or have no or little direct clinical data on cancer treatment, but who still try to sell you an anti-cancer therapy, drug, or agent anyway.  There are so many of those out there.  If the agent is perfectly safe, pure and clean, non toxic, and not too expensive, then it might not be a problem even if it is not effective.  If the product, is harmful (e.g. they ask you to take too much and it damages your liver), has undeclared chemical gents inside (e.g. melamine in milk from China), is very expensive for sugar-water, or is 100% useless (has no value at all), then it should not be consumed.  However, you won’t be able to tell so much.  You will know if they have done the proper studies and they will tell you and most of all show you by directing you to the published data.  Most don’t have it and never will.  Much out there is pure crap.  So, read these sites as they will talk about cancer and push you towards buying their products.  But, their information will be very biased….so use caution.

TV can also be highly misleading so ignore as many of the adds as possible as marketing is always greater than truth.  The news is a great source of information but when the anchorman or woman makes judgement about cancer related information- ignore these.  They have no clue and are just adding their own two cents and can often be way off the mark.

There are many other kinds of websites and blogs relating to cancer.  So read and learn as much as you can!  Just use caution.

Thank you….Dr C  Cancer Made Simple

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