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On the morning of April 17th, 2019, fear of bacon filled the media: “Even moderate intake of red meat raises cancer risk, study finds” (Guardian)“A rasher of bacon a day ‘ups cancer risk’” (BBC) “Two rashers of bacon a day raises bowel cancer risk by a fifth” (Sky)“ANY amount of ham, bacon and red meat ‘increases bowel cancer risk’” (Wales Online)“Killer Full English: Bacon Ups Cancer Risk” (LBC). All these headlines concerned a study that found new evidence that processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.

The headline statistic of a 20% increase in risk was repeated in dozens of newspapers and on most radio news shows and TV bulletins. Yet an actual explanation of what the 20% means was almost entirely lacking, even when the researchers were interviewed directly on Radio 4. Most coverage simply stated that those who ate higher amounts of processed meat were 20% more likely to get bowel cancer than those who ate low amounts of meat. This is technically correct, but woefully uninformative, for two reasons.

…Continue reading ‘Making a pig’s breakfast of research reporting’

Image via Flickr Attribution Some rights reserved by shawnzam

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