NPR, March 6, 2017
Richard Harris


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When you pick up a newspaper and read a story about the latest results on breast cancer, autism, depression or other ailments, what are the odds that finding will stand the test of time?

The answer, according to a study in the journal PLOS One is: flip a coin.

Only about half of the medical findings reported in 199 English-language newspapers actually turn out to hold up when tested in further studies, the study found. And sorry, dear reader, you're not likely to hear about those refutations.

This is partly the fault of journalists, who are always on the lookout for new and unexpected findings, which science and medical journals happily highlight and promote.

"But I think the fault is also on scientists," says Estelle Dumas-Mallet, a biologist at the University of Bordeaux in France and lead author of the study. "I think a lot of time they are so excited about their results they get carried away." [...]

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