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People overestimate the benefits of prevention: Study

Published on Nov 16, 2012 9:01 AM

(REUTERS) - Patients asked to estimate how many lives would be saved through cancer screening or how many hip fractures can be prevented with bone-building medication mostly overestimate the benefits of these preventive measures, according to a New Zealand study.

Several hundred patients were asked about the benefits of various cancer screenings and were surprised by how small the benefits actually were, according to findings that appeared in the Annals of Family Medicine.

Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who communicate health information often don't detail how much a given test or drug can help, but only say that people ought to have it, said Annette O'Connor at the University of Ottawa, who wasn't a part of the study.

"I think it's led to more people taking part in screening or availing themselves of preventive medication than would have been the case if they were presented the information in more meaningful terms," said lead author Ben Hudson, a professor at the University of Otago in Christchurch, New Zealand.

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