A Vasectomy May Increase Prostate Cancer Risk

NY Times Piece: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/07/17/a-vasectomy-may-increase-prostate-cancer-risk/?_php=true&_type=blogs&ref=science&_r=0


Primary Source: http://jco.ascopubs.org/content/early/2014/07/02/JCO.2013.54.8446.abstract


Summary of the popular media piece


This article, published by New York Times, discussed a study reviewed by Harvard researchers regarding the possibility of vasectomies leading to an increased risk of prostate cancer. The article briefly described that researchers looked at 49,405 men of whom 12,321 had vasectomies. The article continued with the data that 6,023 of these men had prostate cancer. This piece also mentions the opposing side, which other researchers believe that there is no link between having a vasectomy and prostate cancer. It ends with another researcher at Harvard saying that even though this study may very well prove to show a link between the two, she would never advise against a vasectomy because of it.


Summary of the actual findings


The published study was actually surprisingly brief in the findings. The purpose of this study was to analyze claims that having a vasectomy leads to a higher risk of prostate cancer. 49,405 men were tracked from 1986-2010. 25% of these men had vasectomies and of the total amount of men, 6,023 had prostate cancer including 811 lethal cases. The researchers sued cox proportional hazards to determine the relative risk for prostate cancer and used the following scale to rate the severeness: advanced, high grade and lethal disease. The findings were that a vasectomy was indeed associated with a small increased risk of prostate cancer in the high grade and lethal disease form. It was proven that vasectomy was not, in fact, associated with a risk of low-grade prostate cancer. Other analysis concluded that there were no other factors that could have led to the increased risk of prostate cancer.


Do you think the popular piece accurately reflect the scientific finding?

I think that NY Times did a good job with reflecting the findings of the study done by Harvard. The facts were accurate and the important findings were able to be understood clearly by the reader. The article also does a good job in keeping neutral and getting the viewpoint of the other side of researchers who do not believe that there is a connection between having a vasectomy and an increased risk of prostate cancer.


How are these two different?


The study abstract obviously focused on the actual scientific study findings. The study was more descript in describing the process of the study and more detailed in the findings. In the popular media piece, however, there was an equal amount of facts and professional opinions not necessarily based on facts. In addition, the NY Times piece was less detailed about the findings and the actual process of the study.


What were the aspects that were exaggerated or misrepresented?
Despite the simplicity of the facts described in the NY Times piece, after reading it carefully and comparing it to the study, there were no glaring exaggerations or misrepresentations from the study.


How would you improve the popular media piece?


I would improve the popular media piece by being more detailed about the actual study (findings, process etc) and having less “opinion-like” quotes.



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