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Books, Journals, New Media
November 9, 2005


Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; Journal Review Editor: Brenda L. Seago, MLS, MA, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University.

JAMA. 2005;294(18):2365-2366. doi:10.1001/jama.294.18.2365

Trying to digest the vast amount of information about health risks that regularly descends upon us presents an unending challenge, even for experienced researchers. The problem is often aggravated by the media. Headlines may caution about possible risks, but seldom do they convey information about how likely it is that failure to heed warnings will lead to adverse outcomes. “Mercury in fish may cause brain damage,” the headlines may say, but rarely do they add that the impacts, when they occur, are generally minute. Moreover, even full articles accompanying headlines rarely communicate the complexity involved in most decisions. Eating fish may slightly raise some risks but lowers others; furthermore, by foregoing fish consumers may substitute riskier alternatives.