No, ordering pizza won't save your life

Letter to the editor
Copyright 1999 New York Post
February 21, 1999

Your report "Pizza as health food? It's not pie in the sky" (Andy Soltis, Feb. 17) is another example of uncritical science reporting.

Harvard researcher Edward Giovannucci claimed in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (Feb. 16) that 57 of 72 studies report that consumption of tomatoes and tomato-based products reduces the risk of cancer.

Closer examination reveals the claim is unsupported. Giovannucci relied on an incorrect definition of statistical significance in exaggerating his result.

For lung cancer, only 2 of 16 studies reported statistically significant results. For stomach cancer, only 1 of 14; for other digestive-tract cancer, only 4 of 15; for genitourinary-tract cancer, only 4 of 14; for female reproductive-tract cancer, only 3 of 14.

These results do not match your headline. At best, Giovannucci can claim that tomatoes and tomato-based products don't increase cancer risk.

But that doesn't make for very exciting news. Is the media too gullible or too eager for headlines?

Steven J. Milloy
Publisher, Junk Science Home Page
Washington, D.C. (via e-mail)

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