FIGURE 1-1 Personal stories in women’s magazines overrepresent the incidence of breast cancer in younger women and underrepresent it among older women.7

Reports of “Breakthroughs” Are More Prevalent Than Actual Breakthroughs

The sense of exaggerated risk surrounding breast cancer provides fertile ground for the marketing of tests and treatments promising to reduce that risk, such as MRI screening.21 Blood tests, imaging technology, even cancer care and surgical products are increasingly marketed directly to consumers. Many of these direct-to-consumer advertisements encourage readers’ fear so as to promote the advertised product or service.

Another problematic form of marketing occurs indirectly through media reports of medical developments while they are still “works in progress,”5 such as press releases discussing the content of articles at the time of their publication in medical journals26 and research abstracts from scientific meetings. A scientific meeting is a forum for scientists to present works in progress, and nearly half of that work remains unpublished23—typically, because the results could not be replicated, or they were too inconclusive to pass peer review. Lisa Schwartz and her colleagues tracked



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