Why to always be skeptical about certain studies

So it’s been shown in several studies that patients who enroll in a study generally do better than patients with similar conditions who don’t participate in studies.

This is especially true of cancer studies with a general consensus that patients in cancer trials live longer (6 months to a year on average) than patients who never entered a cancer trial.

Ergo: If you have cancer, enrolling in a study may be your best bet to live longer than you would do otherwise.

Not so fast, not so fast.

If you think about this, and you should, it could just be that patients who enter studies, especially perhaps studies of very serious conditions such as cancer, are predestined to live longer.


Because they may be richer, better educated, follow healthier practices, etc etc, than those who didn’t enter the study.

Which is pretty much what a team of Penn State College of Medicine researchers concluded after analyzing a decade’s worth of data from over 12 million patients with 46 types of cancer.

Specifically, the people most likely to enter a cancer therapy trial (and remember, this is the US where access to health insurance can be limited because it costs so damn much) were “white males with private health insurance”, a group that you would, I think, expect to do better in nearly any trial they enter.

And this doesn’t just apply to cancer trials, of course.

Whenever you see the results of a study, always ask yourself: What kind of people was this tested on because the law of medicine is simple: Richer, better educated people will always have better results than average, and if there are too many of those in the cohort that was studied, best to accept the findings with a degree of salt.