NHS Choices looked at the health conditions and life styles of men in Scotland over three decades. It’s a fascinating piece of work but more suggestive than definitive. Researchers found that men reporting drinking a large amount of tea each day (more than eight cups) were also found in the NHS records as having contracted prostate cancer. The study does not show how serious their cancer (many men with prostate cancer die of other causes) nor can it check whether the men have been big tea drinkers all their lives; the study did try to screen out other lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol.
Media reports said bluntly heavy tea drinkers are 50 per cent more likely to develop prostate cancer. But relatively few men get prostate cancer, whether they drink tea or don’t. The study found that overall 6.4 per cent of those who drank the most tea developed prostate cancer during the study period, compared with 4.6 per cent of those who drank the least. Those drinking a moderate level of four to six cups of tea a day were not at any increased risk compared with those who drank the least.
We all know that you can’t get a sexy headline out of caveats and qualifications but isn’t it time the media – especially in the age of Leveson – made a bit more of an effort to avoid empty and misleading sensationalism?