Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

AACR lifts diet-breast cancer study embargo early after MSNBC break

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The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) lifted the embargo early yesterday on a study of diet and breast cancer after MSNBC ran a story ahead of schedule. From the AACR press office:

The embargo on the Dr. Michelle Harvie study, “Intermittent, Low-Carbohydrate Diets More Successful Than Standard Dieting, Present Possible Intervention for Breast Cancer Prevention,” originally scheduled for 5 p.m. CT today has been lifted due to an embargo break by MSNBC this morning. All reporters are free to release their stories at this time.

Dr. Harvie is scheduled to present this study in a poster presentation at the 2011 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium today at 5 p.m. CT.

I contacted the AACR to ask whether MSNBC would face any sanctions, but haven’t heard back.

One wonders if they will face the kind of sanctions another news outlet faced when they broke a Microsoft embargo earlier this week. In case you’re wondering why I’d bring up the software giant, remember that the MS in MSNBC stands for Microsoft. And while the Xbox maker is obviously a huge company, the fact that one arm broke an embargo while another spanked an embargo breaker is, well, a fun reminder of just how complicated the media world is these days. Here’s what Microsoft sent BetaNews:

As an Xbox Live Update Preview participant, you agreed to a Program Participation Agreement that included an obligation to keep the program confidential.

Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that you have directly violated this agreement by posting pictures, information and/or talking with the press about the program and its contents. As a result, the following actions will be taking place:

You have been removed from the Xbox Live Update Preview Program.

The console(s) you registered as part of the program will not be able to connect to Xbox Live until the official dashboard release date later this year. You will not be eligible for future Xbox Live Update programs.

We share your excitement about new content, but it is unfortunate you chose to not abide by the terms of the agreement and have been removed from the Xbox Live Update Preview Program. Xbox Live Team.

If I can put on my health journalism hat for a moment: I’m having a bit of trouble understanding the link between the diet study and breast cancer risk. Although obesity has been linked to breast cancer, the press release refers to the researchers measuring “blood markers of breast cancer risk,” and I’m not seeing that they measured anything other than weight and insulin resistance. Several studies have linked insulin resistance to breast cancer, but there’s a difference between that and calling it as a “blood marker of breast cancer risk.” And insulin resistance doesn’t show up on an exhaustive list of breast cancer tumor markers.

So the researchers seem to have proven that one diet may be slightly better than the other for weight loss in women with breast cancer, but linking that to breast cancer risk itself requires a bit of a stretch.


Written by Ivan Oransky

December 9, 2011 at 9:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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