Solving the Diet-Cancer Mystery:
Scientific Studies Provide Clues
Putting It Together: Meta-Analysis
Meta-analysis is all about putting the different pieces of the case together in a scientific way. It combines the findings of many different studies using statistical methods. They offer a real, quantifiable sense of how the evidence is building.
Cumulative evidence is another way of looking at the big picture. Rather than using a complex mathematical model, though, cumulative evidence simply means stacking up all the related studies and figuring out what they say overall. Think of our fictional detective looking at fingerprints, eyewitness testimony, DNA evidence and circumstantial evidence, and putting them all together to see what kind of case they form.
The most compelling evidence demonstrating an association between a particular food and lowered cancer risk only emerges when several different kinds of studies say the same thing. Now that you know what those kinds of studies are and what their strengths and weaknesses might be, you’ll be better able to evaluate new pieces of evidence about diet and cancer, and what they mean for your health.