On science blogs this week: Breast cancer

Bloggers have much to say about the week's big story, the new, and apparently exceptionally unpopular, recommendations on breast cancer and mammograms.


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Bloggers have much to say about the week's big story, the new, and apparently exceptionally unpopular, recommendations on breast cancer and mammograms.

Orac at Respectful Insolence blasts off with a long analysis both provocative and sensible, not an easy combination to achieve. He takes on charges that the new guidelines are misogyny and other nutty accusations — including the charge that the recommendations are an example of the "death panels" that will come with Obamacare.

Orac also has a nugget for science writers to ponder. Of the the heart-rending anecdotes that bespeckle press coverage he says:

This is lazy journalism at best, where finding the "human interest" angle trumps a science-based discussion of the pros and cons of the new recommendations, what they mean to women, and how they might be applied. It's the triumph of pure emotion over science.


Gary Schwitzer, at his eponymous health news blog, is irritated at journalists too. He thrashes CNN's coverage, especially that of medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, pointing out that she's a non-physician. (Is that relevant?) His final thrust, "In an attempt to catch Fox News in the ratings,[CNN] has become just like Fox News." Ouch. [Thanks to Elia Ben-Ari for this link.]

Debra Gordon commences her new blog on medical writing (and other topics of medical interest), also eponymous, by asking freelances their strategies for getting clients to pay. But for her second post she chooses the topic du jour and writes to those alarmed about the breast cancer recommendations. Her advice: "Chill."

Ken Weiss at The Mermaid's Tale gives us some mammogram history. The analysis from Don Monroe at Midgaard includes links to earlier valuable background like the Knight Science Journalism Tracker's take on previous leaks about the recommendations and doc David Gorski's extensive analysis of the data at Science-Based Medicine. Jennifer Gibson at BrainBlogger also discusses the recent opinion piece in JAMA on cancer screening.

Roni Caryn Rabin at Well takes on the pros and cons of breast self-examinations — and gives instructions. Rabin adds a shirttail link to another New York Times blog, Prescriptions, where Kate Phillips discusses how Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius is walking the Administration briskly away from the mammogram recommendations. That bodes ill for them — and, it seems to me, for the future of the evidence-based medicine that was supposed to bolster the coming revolution in health care.

Not that it was all breast cancer all the time. A sampling:

Katherine Bourzac at the Technology Review editors blog briefly notes the new federal government Web site with the Orwellian name of ScienceWorksForUs. It's about how much of the economic stimulus money legislated earlier this year went for science projects — and which ones.

Keith Kloor of Climate Feedback, a Nature.com blog, summarizes commentary on the upcoming Copenhagen climate change summit, which is being declared dead although it won't happen until early December.

The bankruptcy filing of DeCODE Genetics, the Iceland company that did both genome research and public gene testing, raises a bit of a sticky question. Kim Zetter at Threat Level asks it: Who gets the data? The answer is — wait for it — not clear.

And let us close with some kind words about science writing for a change. Earle Holland at On Research waxes nostalgic about the 22-year run of Mosaic, the National Science Foundation quarterly that incubated so many fine science writers before perishing in 1992. Earle links to an archive of Mosaic articles, a classroom for us all.

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