Student fools international newspapers with spoof story

On the surface, it is hard to tell that the story labeled “Study: Fellatio may significantly decrease the risk of breast cancer in women,” isn’t real. The original Web version has the banner along the top of the page, the stock CNN medical graphic along the right side of the article and credits N.C. State University with the study. —Michelle DeCampStudent fools international newspapers with spoof story (Technician Online)

I recall seeing the “fellatio reduces breast cancer” story on blog lists, but figured it was a (rather stupid) adolescent joke, and didn’t know it was a CNN spoof until now. Although the above article (from a student newspaper) claims that legitimate news organizations were fooled by this story, that claim is weakly researched — the reporter is relying only on the word of the author of the hoax article, and does not offer independent confirmation of his claims about newspapers in Croatia and Chile. This story about a hoax is itself something of a non-story.

On a similar note, Forbes is running ‘Is Sex Necessary?,’ an article that begins by introducing “one of the most credible studies correlating overall health with sexual frequency” but immediately follows it with a bulleted list of items taken from “Other studies (some rigorous, some less so).” Buried in the article is the observation that some of the connection are associative, rather than causal. For instance, people who are sick in the hospital probably don’t have much opportunity to meet sexual partners; thus, healthy people will tend to have more sex than sick people. Older people whose life-long partners have died will probably have less sex than younger people whose parters are still around; and those older people are also probably likely to have more health problems than the younger ones. Did the more frequent sex cause the health in the younger people? Of course not. (A good scientific study would, of course, account for age differenes, and would try to compare two groups that are as similar as possible.)