The New "Disease" of Runner's Face
Here’s another chapter in our ongoing (never-ending?) story of media complicity in spreading fake health “news.”
As noted on HealthNewsReview, a website that examines, exposes and debunks junk health news, last month MSNBC.com committed an act of disease-mongering in a story headlined “Plastic surgeon wants to fix your ‘runner’s face.'"
Like every human we've met, runners have faces, but there’s no such thing as a disorder whose symptoms are purely aesthetic and ascribed solely to people who run. Tellingly, the term was coined by … a cosmetic surgeon who is marketing a “treatment” for what isn’t a medical problem.
But when you’re selling something, especially something you made up, you have to use florid language that draws attention and stimulates response. But do the news media have to spread the colorful message in mindless repetition completely devoid of critical thinking?
Instead of calling out “runner’s face” for the bogus condition it is, MSNBC promoted the cosmetic surgeon’s treatment for the condition he invented. As HealthNewsReview commented, “This is what is called ‘advertising’ – not ‘journalism.’”
The story offered no information on the potential harm of the surgeon’s treatment, nor any sense of what it costs. The story offered no scientific data to underpin the story because there isn’t any. But it did pretend to be authoritative:
“Runner's face generally occurs in both men and women ages 40+ who exercise to improve their body, and in doing so end up with a skeletal and bony face,” pronounced MSNBC.com. “When exercising, an athlete burns off fat beneath the layers of his/her skin. The marked loss of fatty tissue results in a loss of volume which leads to a prominent appearance of the bones, accelerated development of skin laxity and deepening of wrinkles. Though you may look like a 20-year-old from the neck down--your face will easily give away your age.”
The “treatment” for the non-disorder effects a purely cosmetic result — inject a combination of Botox-Restylane to smooth wrinkles and plump up the face.
If this is a health-care intervention, if this is a news story, then Kim Kardashian is a marriage counselor. With an advanced degree.