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Errors in systematic reviews: an example of computed tomography screening for lung cancer

Yip, Rowenaa,b,c; Islami, Farhada,b; Zhao, Shijunc,d; Tao, Menghuaa,b; Yankelevitz, David F.c; Boffetta, Paoloa,b,e

European Journal of Cancer Prevention: January 2014 - Volume 23 - Issue 1 - p 43–48
doi: 10.1097/CEJ.0b013e3283616290
Research Papers: Lung Cancer

Systematic reviews are utilized in evidence-based medicine and are increasingly being used to help guide standards, guidelines, and clinical practice. The National Lung Screening Trial results prompted such a review of lung cancer screening literature. The review was endorsed by five major medical societies. We aimed at assessing its accuracy. Two independent groups of two reviewers reviewed the systematic review, including its source literature. Errors were placed into three major categories and tabulated: (i) selection of studies, (ii) misrepresentation of published reports, and (iii) errors in calculation and rounding. A total of 151 errors were found. There were 13 errors in selection of studies, 124 errors due to misrepresentation of published reports, and 14 errors in calculations and rounding. The extent of these errors raises concern about the credibility of the conclusions of the recent lung cancer screening systematic review. A process that allows for a thorough checking of data included in systematic reviews should be established.

aInstitute for Translational Epidemiology

bTisch Cancer Institute

cDepartment of Radiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA

dDepartment of Diagnostic Imaging, Cancer Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, China

eInternational Prevention Research Institute, Lyon, France

All supplementary digital content is available directly from the corresponding author.

Correspondence to Rowena Yip, MPH, Institute for Translational Epidemiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, 1 Gustave Levy Place, New York, NY 10029, USA Tel: +1 212 241 2420; fax: +1 212 241 9655; e-mail:

Received February 8, 2013

Accepted March 15, 2013

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.