Wear Sunscreen and Read Past the Headlines

A recent study that suggested a link between fish consumption and melanoma has garnered quite a few headlines. The challenge is, many consumers (and even other journalists) don’t read past said headlines.  In this case, the hyperbolic proclamations are followed by densely packed text filled with high grade professionals essentially saying—whoooa there kiddo, that’s not quite what the study says.

The New York Times headline asked Can Your Diet Really Affect Your Skin Cancer Risk? And then answered the fish finding with these little gems:

  • “…while the finding raises questions about possible links between diet and melanoma, the study’s lead author and other experts cautioned that it’s not a reason to avoid eating fish.”
  • “I wouldn’t discourage people from having fish just because of our finding,” said Eunyoung Cho, an associate professor of dermatology at Brown University and the lead author of the study.
  • “This does not change dietary recommendations for fish intake as part of a heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory or broad cancer prevention diet,” said Carrie Daniel-MacDougall, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
  • Sancy Leachman, director of the Melanoma Research Program at Oregon Health & Science University, said the new study was well-designed and called the findings “intriguing.” But, she said, when “you crunch large data sets like this,” what you find are correlations between factors, not evidence that one causes another.

“It’s refreshing to see both the lead author of this study and the Times’ coverage resisting the urge to sensationalize,” said Jennifer McGuire, Registered Dietitian at the National Fisheries Institute. “This study changes nothing about longstanding common-sense nutrition advice and that’s made pretty clear.  What a rare but responsible thing to see public health being prioritized over click-bait.”

So, consider this a public service announce to please wear sunscreen and read past the headlines.