Junkfood Science: What doctors are really discussing?

November 10, 2007

What doctors are really discussing?

Only 37%? Doctors actually participated in a poll asking them if they thought scaring fat people with threats of cancer would work to incentivize them into losing weight. The MedPage Today poll results were reported on Friday, along with an uncritical synopsis for its clinician readers on the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research report. This provides a disturbing example of the medical literature available to healthcare providers and of their grasp of these issues.

Survey Report: Cancer Fear Won't Curb Obesity

…An analysis of more than 7,000 studies released last week suggested that obesity is on course to overtake tobacco as the leading risk factor for cancer. The study implicated even modest weight gain in increased risk for cancers of the colon, kidney, and pancreas, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and endometrium, and breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Investigator Walter C. Willett, M.D., of Harvard, said the take-home message for clinicians was that they should counsel patients about the danger of excess weight with "the first few pounds gained or first few extra inches of abdominal girth."

But when MedPage Today asked whether such early weight-loss counseling by clinicians would help cut rates of both obesity and cancer, only 37% of the 489 respondents thought that linking excess weight to cancer would frighten patients into losing pounds…

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