Truth-O-Meter: Can Exercising Help Prevent Breast Cancer?

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month runs during the whole month of October. With that being said, each October there are always new break throughs in breast cancer research. In October of 2017, Marielle Mondon posted the article, “Study: Fitness Could Help Cut the Risk of Breast Cancer” to The Philly Voice.

Mondon explains in the article that the research was done by Henry J. Thompson, who tested the theory using lab rats. Thompson and his researchers tested several generations of the rats. Overtime, the rats would run on a treadmill. The ones that were the most successful bred with each other, while the ones who were less successful also bred together. This continued with their offspring. Next, these rats would be exposed to chemicals known to cause cancer. As a result, the researchers found the following information:

The rats with poor natural fitness levels were four times more likely to develop breast cancer than the other rats. The poor fitness level rats also had more tumors and contracted the disease earlier compared to the fit rats.

Mondon’s article linked to a second article from The New York TimesThis article, written by Gretchen Reynolds, entitled “Fitness May Lower Breast Cancer Risk” is from a month prior to the Mondon article. Reynold’s article also features a more in depth look at the study.

In his virtual book, Web literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, Michael Caulfield explains an article that he found to also do this — leading him to believe this new article had already been fact-checked. This is something Caulfield refers to as “reporting on reporting. Therfore, according to Caulfield, the information found in Mondon’s article would most likely be true, as it cites a previous work.

Because The New York Times article seemed to be a little more detailed, I searched for the website on Politifact to see what the general public said about it. However, this came up pretty empty. There was only one post about whether or not the website was reliable. On the “Politifact Scorebard,” there was only one vote for The New York Times — marked as “mostly false” — which lead me to believe this couldn’t be that reliable if there was not a lot of evidence.

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Therefore, I went on to read the NYT article. In this article, Reynold’s explains that it’s actually somewhat unclear as to whether or not it is exercise or genetics that lead to reduced cancer cases. She explains the following:

Most of us probably think that cardiovascular fitness, which in broad, scientific terms is the ability to get oxygen and energy to muscles, is built with diligent exercise, and that the more we work out, the fitter we become. But we would be only about half right.  A large percentage of our aerobic fitness, perhaps as much as half, according to some studies, is innate….Exercise can augment it, while avoiding movement and gaining weight may reduce it, but a person’s baseline, genetic fitness is his or hers from birth.

In other words, a large part of a person’s fitness levels are gained from genetics, not directly from exercise. Therefore, the question still remains, but now becomes even more specific — can exercise actually reduce breast cancer, if fitness levels are genetic and not so much achieved?

Reynolds answered this question by stating the following:

The differences between the animals with high and low fitness turned out to be striking. The rats with low natural fitness were about four times as likely to develop breast cancer as the rats with high fitness were, and showed more tumors once the disease began. They also tended to contract the disease earlier and continue to develop tumors later in life compared with highly fit rats.

Reynolds points out that these rats have natural fitness. Her article also featured a link to the actual study itself, which was published in July of 2017. Although I did not have direct access to the article, the abstract alone states that the research was not done on the rats that were able to exercise. Instead, it was the offspring of those rats. Therefore, the original article’s headline, as well as the report itself, are both pretty misleading.

For example, the original study, published in Carcinogenesis on Oxford Academic, states “Although aerobic capacity segregates risk for a number of chronic diseases, the effect of the heritable component on cancer risk has not been evaluated.”

With the original study not providing much information and neither the Mondon or Reynolds article featuring any graphs or data showing the research or differences that were found among the different rats, I wanted to see what previous research had been done, as per Caulfield’s suggestion. I turned to Google to see what other researchers may have found. I simply typed in, “does exercise reduce breast cancer?”

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Sure enough, there were tons of different articles. A lot of these were posted by .gov or .org websites, including The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation — an organization built on research and global outreach in the fight against cancer.

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It was here, The Susan G. Komen link, that I found the best information on the topic —  whether or not exercise really reduces breast cancer. On the foundation’s website, there’s actually a whole page dedicated to the correlation between breast cancer and exercise. After each statistic or fact, a footnote is included that cites the source in which it was found.

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The first thing I thought when I saw this was — “That’s great! There’s a whole list of statistics!” However, once I really read the facts, they didn’t seem all that great. The second bullet point explains, “When the evidence is looked at as a whole, regular exercise appears to lower breast cancer risk by about 10-20 percent.”

10-20 percent.

After reading this statistic, it makes me think how misleading this statement actually is. Of course, any prevention is good prevention; however, with a success rate of only 10-20%, exercise must not have that big of an impact on reducing breast cancer. Putting together this information, as well as the fact of genetics vs actual exercise, I can conclude that these headlines are misleading and these statistics are not as beneficial as they may seem.

Keeping all of this in mind, I figured one last piece of research wouldn’t hurt. Using another piece of Caulfield’s advice, I decided to read The Susan G. Komen’s website laterally — that is, looking at what other sources say about the website.

According to Wikipedia, from 2009-2010, the Komen Foundation spent 20% of their earnings on research. I find it hard to see a company as having reliable research, if said company is raising millions of dollars, but only 20% of that is going towards research itself.

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Next, I turned to Snopes.

Snopes take on Susan G. Komen’s spending?

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A mixed truth — Snopes explains that although the organization may only provide researchers with 20% of their earnings, the point of the organization is actually to provide awareness and public health education, not really to conduct research. Therefore, the organization isn’t technically in the wrong when they do so. Therefore, the research done by the company may not have a lot of funding, but the company does do what they are supposed to – making them reputable in my book.

Overall, I stand by my point — the headlines and statistics may not be exactly what they sound like. Therefore, it is always best to fact-check any claim. By going upstream, reading laterally, and checking sources, readers can ensure what they are reading is correct.

As for whether or not exercise can reduce breast cancer? I’d have to agree with Snopes on this one and say it is a mixed truth. Fitness levels determine cancer likelihood, not so much exercise. Even so, when exercising is an option, there is really only a small percentage of situations in which this makes an impact.

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[DRAFT] Can exercising help prevent breast cancer? [DRAFT]

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Less than a week ago, Marielle Mondon posted the article, “Study: Fitness Could Help Cut the Risk of Breast Cancer” to The Philly Voice. Mondon explains in the article that the research was done by Henry J. Thompson, who tested the theory using lab rats. Thompson and his researchers tested several generations of the rats. Overtime, the rats would run on a treadmill. The ones that were the most successful bred with each other, while the ones who were less successful also bred together. This continued with their offspring. Next, these rats would be exposed to chemicals known to cause cancer. As a result, the researchers found the following information:

The rats with poor natural fitness levels were four times more likely to develop breast cancer than the other rats. The poor fitness level rats also had more tumors and contracted the disease earlier compared to the fit rats.

Mondon’s article linked to a second article from The New York Times. This article, written by Gretchen Reynolds, entitled “Fitness May Lower Breast Cancer Risk” is from a month prior to the Mondon article. Reynold’s article also features a more in depth look at the study.

Because The New York Times article seemed to be a little more detailed, I searched for the website on Politifact to see what the general public said about it. However, this came up pretty empty. There was only one post about whether or not the website was reliable.

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In this article, Reynold’s explains that it’s actually somewhat unclear as to whether or not it is exercise or genetics that lead to reduced cancer cases. Reynold’s article also featured a link to the actual study itself, which was published in July of 2017.

Possible Claims to Fact-Check

The following three articles are potential studies I found interesting that I think could be used for a long fact-check. Although these articles cover a variety of topics, I found them all to be very interesting. Each article can be found by doing a Google News search of “recent study.”

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This first article is from The Philly Voice. It claims that a recent study has found that fitness and exercise could cut the risk of breast cancer in some patients. I thought this was interesting because it seems there are always new studies being done about what causes or reduces cancer risks. Although cancer is so common, there seems to still be a lot of unanswered questions about the sickness. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to do more research on the topic. The article cites other sources, such as The New York Times, which I would follow to find more information.

 

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This headline from SimpleMost reads, “New LG Smart Phone Keeps Mosquitoes Away.” After reading the headline, I thought for sure it sounded like a hoax. However, I quickly googled the headline and found there were multiple articles written about the topic. Although I didn’t necessarily fact-check it, there seems to be enough information on the situation for me to do so. I thought this article was interesting because I’m really interested in technology and would want to learn more about it.

 

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The third recent study I found was this article from Fox Carolina. The headline reads, “Is Coffee Healthy For You?What New Research Says.” It seems like every day there are new studies that claim something that was once believed to be healthy is not and vice versa. Therefore, I would want to dig deeper into this topic and see what the newest research says.

Fact-Check #5: How Accurate are “Recent Studies?”

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This study was found on The New York Post after I did a simple Google search of “recent study.” The article claims to be have done research which states “Puerto Ricans are less healthy than other Hispanic groups.”

The article explains it’s information is pulled from “a study.” However, it never links to the study or really provides any information about it.

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This can be seen in the screenshot above. Here, the article just starts out saying “The Health Department…” with no link or other information. It goes on to explain “The study…” again without any further information.

Finally, the article quotes Dr. Mary Bassett. Therefore, I googled “Dr. Mary Bassett latinos” which led me to what I believe is the original study. From there, I got to work.

The study did an amazing job explaining where Latinos/Puerto Ricans were in New York and supplied readers with graphs/colorful data.

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In conclusion, the study goes through different health realted topics, such as social and economic conditions, housing, healthcare, etc. The study also explains:

Although Latinos overall have a lower smoking rate than other New Yorkers (12% vs. 15%), the rate among Puerto Ricans is higher than other New Yorkers (25% vs. 15%). In general, Puerto Ricans have poorer health than other Latino groups, as do all Latinos who have been in the US for more than 10 years.

Therefore, there is some truth behind the article. The study explains that the health issues Puerto Ricans face are not natural. Instead, it is mainly based on heritage — where immigrated Puerto Ricans end up living in the U.S. that determines these lower health rates.

Overall, Latinos compared to whites, the Latinos of NYC rank lower than non-minorities in overall health. At a closer look, it is Puerto Ricans who rank the lowest out of each Latino minority group.

Fact-Check #4: Are Filter Bubbles Too Filtered?

In 2011, Eli Pariser explained his concept of “filter bubbles” in his TED Talk — “Beware Online ‘Filter Bubbles.'” Pariser explains that companies, such as Yahoo!, Google, and even Facebook, tailor search results, news, and other features to a user’s personal tastes. These companies do so by tracking what a person clicks on, when they click on it, where they are when they do so, what device they are using, and even what browser they are using. It is these filter algorithms that Pariser refers to as “filter bubbles.”

Likewise, companies that produce news articles have a tendency to have a filter of their own. For example, some websites filter news in accordance to their audience. With their audience in mind, websites will feature news that pertains to conservative, liberal, and mainstream readers.

Keeping this in mind, I looked at the difference between conservative news and liberal news. Although some of the articles told the same story, the difference was in how the story was told.

The first article was from conservative website, RealClear Politics:

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The article features two videos that describe the headline — Jimmy Kimmel, a late night TV host, responded to Republicans Bill Cassidy and Brian Kilmeade after Kilmeade lied on Kimmel’s television program. The whole story is very back and forth. However, there really isn’t much detail in the article. It pretty much shows the two videos of what happened and then provides a transcript. Therefore, there isn’t really any opinion here.

Next, these three articles from liberal websites give more detail about the story, agreeing with what Jimmy Kimmel has to say:

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Article: Rawstory

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Article: AlterNet

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Article: Huffington Post

The word choice alone that these headlines use to describe the incident show their bias towards Kimmel. These three articles feature some of the jokes Kimmel says during the videos, as well as describes the healthcare plan in detail, while the right-wing articles never even mention what it is.

Doing a simple Google search for “[news website] bias” brought me to this website each time — a bias scale checker, that is determined by readers. For example, the articles used i this blogpost read as follows:

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Therefore, my assumptions were correct about the bias of these establishments. Although all four websites determine to tell the story, only three give full details which favor Kimmel.

Fact-Check #3: Is FoxNews Fake News?

When reading any book, website, article, or other form of writing, chances are, there is going to be some sort of bias when it comes to the information being offered. In some cases, this bias is not intentional, just natural. In other cases, publications have complete control over what they want to say about a topic; therefore, they will feature what they believe to be true, regardless of the facts. For example, Michael Arthur Caulfield brings up an interesting point in his virtual textbook, Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers:

Web reading is a bit more like teleportation. Even after following a source upstream, you arrive at a page and site and author that are often all unknown to you. How do understand the author’s qualifications or the trustworthiness of the site? Researchers have found that most people go about this the wrong way. When confronted with a new site, they poke around the site, and try to find out what the site says about itself, by going to the “about page”, clicking around in onsite author biographies, or scrolling up or down the page. This makes no sense. If the site is untrustworthy, then what the site says about itself is most likely untrustworthy as well. And even if the site is generally trustworthy, it is inclined to paint the most favorable picture of its expertise and credibility possible.

In other words, a website will say about itself what it wants readers to believe about itself. Therefore, in order to judge a websites’ bias, readers must look what other sources say about the website, rather than the website itself.

For my example, we will be looking at FoxNews, whose own slogan is “Most watched, most trusted.” Let’s take a closer look…

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This Wikipedia article explains that FoxNews “was created by Australian-American media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who hired former Republican Partymedia consultant and CNBC executive Roger Ailes as its founding CEO….Fox News Channel has been accused of biased reporting, and promoting the Republican Party.” With this in mind, I clicked the footnotes that follow this latter sentence, which lead to the original source.

One footnote led to this website from Slate, which claims FoxNews once admitted to favoriting the right side. However, this article is from 2005 which leads me to believe that although this may have happened before, Wikipedia hasn’t really updated its’ sources in 10 years.

Next, I decided to look at FoxNews’ reputation on Politifact. Here, I was surprised to see the results, which listed Fox as having 50% false information:

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Process: After looking over this information, it seems that FoxNews seems to favor the Republican party, giving them a bias when it comes to certain topics.

Expertise: Although FoxNews has skilled reporters, the bias still gets in the way, which shows in the bar graph above.

Aim: Although FoxNews explains their aim is to provide views with “fair and balanced” news reporting, because of the research I have found, I do not believe this to be true.

Fact-Check #2: Brock Turner featured in college textbook?

In June of 2016, social media was outraged to learn that Brock Turner, a student at Stanford University would only be serving three months in prison after sexually assaulting and raping an unconscious woman. Over a year later, stories still circulate about the rapist. Recently, this image has been circulating social media, featuring Turner’s picture in a college textbook, along with using his situation as an example and definition of the term, “rape.” I first saw this image on Twitter about about a week ago. As recently as of yesterday, the image was still popping up on all forms of my social media.

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Although he didn’t serve time, Brock Turner has made his debut as the textbook definition of Rape in a criminal justice 101 book. pic.twitter.com/Q8VlHwjhSJ

— Joseph Morgan (@Josephmorgan96) September 12, 2017

When I first saw the image, I wasn’t sure if I could believe it or not. I wanted to, however, I also wouldn’t put it past someone on the Internet to have made this up. The first thing I noticed about the tweet was that the original poster actually linked his source:

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Following that link, I came across the original post from Facebook, where the poster explained that the image was found in Introduction to Criminal Justice, by Callie Marie Rennison:

 

Following Caulfield’s advice, I then googled the information found in the post — therefore, I googled the textbook. That search led me to this article from Daily Dot. Interestingly enough, Caufield’s example also leads to an article from Daily Dot, which Caufield uses as a valuable source. The article explains that the original post was indeed from Facebook, from a freshman at Washington State University:

“Hannah Shuman, a freshman at Washington State University, discovered the Turner entry in her textbook and posted it to Facebook on Thursday.”

Seavers, Kris. “Brock Turner Is ‘the Definition of Rape’ in This Criminal Justice Textbook.”The Daily Dot, 12 Sept. 2017, http://www.dailydot.com/irl/brock-turner-already-textbook-case-criminal-justice-system-fails-rape-survivors/.

Fact-Check #1: Happy Hour from Fisher-Price?

Scrolling through social media nowadays, it’s almost impossible to not see dozens of articles, pictures, and posts about ridiculous things going on in society. Amongst the pictures and news of friends’ dogs, families, and other share-worthy posts, are these pictures and articles that wind up going viral and are being shared thousands of times. Sometimes, these “ridiculous things” do end up being true. However, thanks to Photoshop and the ability to spread information fast with social media, a large portion of these posts are not true. For instance, a post I recently found on Instagram is a picture of this “Happy Hour Playset” that seems to be from Fisher-Price, a children’s toy company.

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This post is originally from December; however, because of Instagram’s “follower activity” feature, I’m able to see posts that have been recently liked by people I am following. Right off the bat, I figured this post probably wasn’t true. Still, it’s 2017 and crazier things have happened. So, I started doing research to find out if this was a hoax or seriously just a bad/controversial idea from Fisher Price.

The first thing I did, was click on the original poster’s Instagram page, adam.the.creator. After 2 seconds of looking at his profile, it is understandable that his Instagram is filled with satire and memes. Still, I looked further into the topic and came across an article on Snopes.com and debunked this picture very quickly. This article by Snopes explains that most social media users that came across this image understood that it was a joke; however, the article also features screenshots from other social media users who were outraged by the post. Snopes also features this quote from the toy comany:

“Please know that this product is not endorsed, produced or approved by Fisher-Price.”

Personally, looking at this image, I could tell with certainty that it would be fake. I figured this from understanding the typical images that are shared on Instagram/social media in general rather than a credible source. The way the image/wording on the image is set up also gives this away because usually when an image is set up in this manner, with words and an image found on social media, it is understood to me a meme. There is also a watermark on the picture of the poster’s Instagram username. If he were just finding this image from the Internet, rather than Photoshopping it, a watermark would probably have not been added. However, with the help of credible sources like Snopes, these jokes can be put to rest in order to ease the confusion of those unaware social media users.