“The top prostate cancer specialists”

At least some editions of last Saturday’s New York Times carried a two-page advertisement with the above heading. We don’t know whether this ad appeared in every edition, or whether it has appeared in other papers, but we think it would be wise to make a couple of things clear about this ad.

In the first place, the 24 physicians listed are most certainly not the top 24 prostate cancer specialists in America. Indeed, when you read the text with a little care it says that, “These physicians are among the top prostate cancer specialists in the nation as selected by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd.” Castle Connolly Medical makes money by generating information on physicians for their own and other publications, such as America’s Top Doctors.

Physicians cannot and do not pay money to be selected for Castle Connolly Medical’s lists of “top doctors.” They must be suggested by their peers and then undergo a review of their credentials. However, according to the “fine print” at the foot of this ad, “The physicians in this ad are among those previously selected as Castle Connolly Top Doctors and have paid for their inclusion here.”

Why are we making a big deal of this? Because (as usual) you can’t believe everything you read. Several of the doctors listed in this ad are well known to us. Some might well be very high on a list of the very best prostate cancer specialists in North America. But this is by no means a list of the 24 best prostate cancer specialists in the nation and shouldn’t be interpreted that way.

Of the 24 doctors listed in this advertisements, 16 practice in the states of New York and New Jersey. It is possible that other versions of this ad appeared in other areas of the nation featuring other “top prostate cancer specialists.” The same considerations apply in these cases too. The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink does not object in any way to physicians advertising their services. However, all advertisements (for physicians, drugs, cars, and fast food) need to be recognized for what they are — advertisements — and acted on with appropriate caution.

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