You can find lots of health information in the newspaper, on TV, and online, but how much of it can you trust?
Harvard Medical School offers this guidance on sorting out the claims:
Look at what was studied. A promising treatment is pronounced “safe” — but was it tested on humans? A story can hide the fact that a new drug has so far only been tested on mice or other animals and that human treatment is years away.
Be wary of dramatic language. Headlines may announce a “breakthrough” procedure or a “groundbreaking” solution. Sudden breakthroughs, though, are rare in science. Most progress comes slowly, so don’t jump on the bandwagon of the latest sensational “cure.”
Don’t mix association and causation. Scientists may discover a link between a particular kind of behavior and a disease. That doesn’t necessarily mean that one causes the other. Many people who suffer from ulcers take aspirin, ibuprofen, and other drugs to treat severe headaches, for example. That doesn’t necessarily mean that aspirin causes ulcers. Don’t jump to conclusions.
Check the timeline. A new drug or procedure may offer hope for patients, but that doesn’t mean it’s ready to be put into use right away. Watch for words like “someday” or “in the future,” telling you that an actual cure may be very far off.