“The Fault In Our Stars: When Celebrity Health Advice Conflicts With Our Science,” by Dr. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, MACP, Dr Len’s Cancer Blog.

Dr. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld currently serves as Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the American Cancer Society. In a recent blog post, he wisely cautions against celebrity health advice. “People are entitled to their opinions,” he says. “But when personal thoughts turn into public pronouncements it can create a sense of fear and a sense of panic that may not be warranted. Listening to what the science tells us can help us confront some of that fear.”

The celebrity in question is television chef and author Sandra Lee, known for her “semi-homemade” cooking concept. In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America, Lee told the nation that she has breast cancer, that a lumpectomy did not have clean margins, and that both the radiologist and the doctor told her she should have a double mastectomy because she’s “a ticking time bomb.” Lee, age 48, is also critical of mammography screening guidelines that advise-in her words-tell women to wait until they are 50. She also recommended that women of all ages, even in their 20s and 30s, call their health professional now and get a mammogram. In short, all women “need to know” whether or not they have breast cancer.

Lichtenfeld stresses that what the science tells us is that screening women in their 20s and 30s who are at average risk of breast cancer would cause a great deal of harm and not much benefit. He also acknowledges that the United States Preventive Services Task Force’s latest draft report on the potential benefits and harms of screening mammograms is “not a blanket condemnation of screening beginning at age 40. It is a recommendation that women be informed of the evidence and their options, then make the decision that is best for them.”

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