Studies with impressive results often flawed, research shows

If a medical study seems too good to be true, it probably is, according to new research.

In a statistical analysis of nearly 230,000 trials, results that claimed a "very large effect" rarely held up when other teams tried to replicate them, researchers reported last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The effects largely go away; they become much smaller," said John Ioannidis, the Stanford researcher and the report's senior author. He and colleagues examined 228,220 trials grouped into more than 85,000 collections of studies that paired a single medical intervention (such as taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug for postoperative pain) with a single outcome (such as experiencing 50 percent relief over six hours). In at least 90 percent of those cases, the team found, including data from subsequent trials reduced those results.

Studies that reported striking results were more likely to be small, with fewer than 100 subjects who experienced fewer than 20 medical events.

- Los Angeles Times

Many with incurable cancer overestimate effects of chemo

Most patients getting chemotherapy for incurable lung or colon cancers mistakenly believe that the treatment can cure them rather than just buy them more time or ease their symptoms, a major study suggests. Researchers say doctors either are not being honest enough with patients or people are in denial that they have a terminal disease.

The study focuses on overtreatment at the end of life - futile care that prolongs dying. It's one reason that a quarter of all Medicare spending occurs in the last year of life.

For cancers that have spread beyond the lung or colon, chemo can add weeks or months and may ease a patient's symptoms, but usually is not a cure. This doesn't mean that patients shouldn't have it, only that they should understand what it can and cannot do, experts say.

Often, they do not. Jane C. Weeks, a physician at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and colleagues led a study of nearly 1,200 such patients across the country. All had been diagnosed four months earlier with widely spread cancers and had received chemo.

Surveys showed that 69 percent of those with lung cancer and 81 percent of those with colorectal cancer felt their treatment was likely to cure them. Hispanics and blacks were three times more likely than whites to hold inaccurate beliefs. - Associated Press

Researchers link bullying to youths' suicidal thoughts

Think bullying doesn't hurt? A new study suggests otherwise, finding that a youth aged 10 to 17 who reports that he or she has been victimized by peers in the last year is nearly 2.5 times likelier to have suicidal thoughts than an adolescent who reports no recent victimization.

Family support is a bulwark against youth suicide in bullying cases. When parents contribute to an adolescent's sense of victimization, the authors suggest, hopelessness is far likelier to take hold, and suicidal thinking likely follows.

Adolescents were also more likely to have contemplated suicide when their families were fractured. Young people living with a single parent were not substantially more likely than those in two-parent families to ponder self-harm. But those living in a stepfamily or with a parent and an unmarried partner were three times more likely to do so than those living with both biological or adoptive parents.

A British study has linked half of adolescent suicides to bullying. - Los Angeles Times

Pediatricians' group seeks protections for cheerleaders

Cheerleading has become a full-on competitive sport of its own, with injuries to match.

The American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday issued a policy statement calling for cheerleaders - 3.6 million children ages 6 and older - to get the same care as athletes. The new guidelines ask coaches and schools to develop emergency plans and ensure that cheerleading programs have the same level of coaching, injury surveillance, and medical care as other programs.

Most cheerleading injuries are sprains and strains, with head and neck injuries the second most common. Since 2007, there have been 26,000 cheerleading injuries a year, and the activity has accounted for 66 percent of all catastrophic injuries to high school female athletes in the last 25 years, the academy said.

Most serious injuries occur while performing complex stunts such as pyramids, said Jeffrey Mjaanes, coauthor of the new guidelines.

- Los Angeles Times