The Oransky Journal

Interesting stuff that doesn't fit on Embargo Watch or Retraction Watch

Would you take cancer screening advice from Ozzy Osbourne?

with 2 comments

photo by Daniel Focka via Flickr

From a contest being sponsored by CBS:

This is an actual sweepstakes inspired by rock legend Ozzy Osbourne’s secret fantasy. If you are the grand prize winner, we will fly you and a companion to New York for three nights in a suite at a luxury hotel with a view of Central Park. And then the main event – you will be driven to the Center for Advanced Digestive Care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center for a free colonoscopy!

The promotion doesn’t exactly say what Osbourne’s “secret fantasy” is, and I’m not sure I want to know, but it does make it clear why he’s interested in the issue:

Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne’s participation in this project is especially meaningful – not only because they are major stars, but because Sharon fought a courageous and successful battle against colon cancer. For more information about her inspiring story and the Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program at Cedars Sinai Hospital in LA, click here.

I’m of course happy to hear that Sharon is doing well, and wish her all the best for the future.

But I did have a few questions for CBS and the hospital about whether this contest was as evidence-based as possible. From the official rules:

This sweepstakes is open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, 40-79 years of age at the time of entry.

A New York-Presbyterian press release about the contest, however, notes:

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for individuals beginning at age 50 years and continuing until age 75 years.

So, I asked the hospital, which seemed to be following the evidence closely, why not start the eligibility at 50? Spokesperson Kathy Robinson told me:

As stated in our press release, the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for individuals beginning at age 50. And persons at high risk of developing colon cancer should be screened at a younger age. The age range for eligibility for the colonscopy sweepstakes is expanded to age 40 to include those individuals who may be at high risk. The final medical eligibility of the contest winner will be determined after a required review by NewYork-Presbyterian of the individual’s medical records and a medical consultation.

And to be fair, there are some caveats in the release, as New York-Presbyterian pointed out:

Those at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer should begin screening at a younger age, and may need to be tested more frequently.

And also in the contest rules:

The colonoscopy portion of the prize will be provided for colorectal cancer and colorectal polyp screening purposes only after a discussion regarding the winner’s medical eligibility for a colonoscopy procedure between Sponsor-selected medical professionals and the winner’s primary care physician. A colonoscopy will not be provided unless the Sponsor-selected medical professionals determine that the patient is medically eligible.

I asked Marden Kane, the PR firm representing CBS for the contest, the same question, but haven’t heard back.

Contest entrants should note that CBS won’t cover the costs of colonoscopy complications — which are very rare but do happen — nor any treatment prompted by the procedure.

Post-procedure care is not part of the prize and any post-procedure care that is recommended to the winner as a result of the procedure, or arising from complications from the procedure, is not part of the prize.

CBS was of course, until recently, the home of Katie Couric, whose colonscopy on live television — while she was still at NBC — led to the “Couric effect,” a bump in the number of people who had colonoscopies. But Couric — who lost her husband to colon cancer — was 45 when she had the procedure, and some aren’t convinced awareness campaigns such as the one that CBS and New York-Presbyterian are doing are an unalloyed good.

Hat tip: Genevra Pittman

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 15, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. It’s not the first time Osbourne has promoted less-than-scientific screening:

    And, like Couric, Osbourne had a spouse with colon cancer, though she survived.


    February 15, 2012 at 5:38 pm

  2. Yes in fact I would! Sharon HAD it and OZZY was around most likely he knows more than you or I on the subject just by exposure thank you very much.


    March 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm

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