Thursday, 8 October 2009

Another day, another Express cancer scare/miracle cure (delete as applicable)

For three of the last five days, the Express newspapers have had front page headlines containing the word 'cancer'. On Sunday, it was their ridiculous claim that the HPV vaccine was 'as deadly as cancer', which has prompted a complaint to the PCC.

Following that health scare was the 'miracle cure' story on Monday: 'Breast cancer secrets cracked'. The article began:
Thousands of women suffering from breast cancer could benefit from new treatments to tackle recurring tumours after a major breakthrough.

Good news. But then buried in the story, the voice of reason:

Dr Helen George, Cancer Research UK’s head of science information, said: “This research is important because it offers an explanation of why some breast cancers can spread and return. But it is a very new theory, so more work is needed before we will know if it can be used to improve breast cancer treatment.”

Yes. Cancer Research's press release called it a:

provocative new theory...[that] is already stimulating international discussion.

Raising the hopes of cancer sufferers with a theory, when there are no therapies or drugs yet produced to work along the lines of that theory, is highly irresponsible. But the Express doesn't do responsible these days.

Two days later, the Express was back in 'we're all gonna die!' mode with 'Killer bug in most chickens'. Turns out, this bug is in most chickens, long has been, but cooking chicken thoroughly kills said bug.

So hold the front page with that exclusive: don't undercook your chicken.

Today, the Express was back to cancer. 'Anti-age creams cancer danger' relies on one expert from the Cancer Prevention Coalition. The scare begins:

Anti-ageing creams regularly used by millions of Britons could increase the risk of cancer, a top expert warned yesterday.

The theory is that anti-ageing creams contain Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) which speed up exfoliation and thus leave people's skin more exposed to 'toxins and sun damage'.

The Express writes:

In America, however, the ingredient was considered dangerous enough to prompt the US Food and Drug Administration to warn consumers that AHAs “could destroy the upper layers of skin, causing severe burns, swelling and pain”.

But read this section of the FDA website on AHAs and a rather different picture emerges. Such as:

studies also indicated that this increase in sensitivity is reversible and does not last long after discontinuing use of the AHA cream. One week after the treatments were halted, researchers found no significant differences in UV sensitivity among the various skin sites.

At the end of the story, the Express writes:

A spokeswoman for the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Perfumeries Association, said cosmetic firms were not required to warn consumers if their products contained AHAs but only if they contained these ingredients at such high levels they could be dangerous. She added: “There is a legal requirement for these products to be safe.”

But the CTPA have issued a statement saying:

CTPA has been misquoted by some of the media; we did not say that AHAs could be used in cosmetics at such high levels that they could be dangerous. This is simply not the case. It is known that at high concentrations irritation and peeling can occur, this is why such levels are not used in cosmetic products.

Yes it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and news about the HPV vaccine mean such stories are going to seem of interest. But why not publish some reliable, informative stories on the subject rather than raising false hopes, or pushing bogus scares?

1 comment:

  1. Breast cancer headline next to a picture of Cheryl Cole in a low cut top. Anti-ageing cream headline next to a picture of Carol Vorderman.

    You've got to give the Express some credit for that.

    Oh no, hang on.

    You don't.


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