Assessing the Presence of Spin in Abstracts of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses on Testicular Cancer Treatment, Screening, and Quality of Life: Cross-Sectional Analysis

Sydney C Ferrell, Parshvi Patel, Wade Arthur, Ryan Ottwell, Micah Hartwell, Daniel Ostmo, William Woods, Vikram Narayan, Drew N Wright, Suhao Chen, Zhuqi Miao, Matt Vassar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Spin — reporting in a way that exaggerates benefits or minimizes harm — has been shown to affect a clinician’s perceptions of treatment efficacy. It is necessary to identify if spin is used in systematic reviews and meta-analyses due to their high degree of scientific evidence and usefulness in identifying the most appropriate clinical interventions. We aim to quantify the prevalence of spin in the abstracts of systematic reviews focused on testicular cancer.

Design: Systematic reviews related to testicular cancer were accessed using search strategies created for MEDLINE and Embase. To meet the inclusion criteria, a study must be a systematic review or meta-analysis examining testicular cancer screening, treatment, or quality of life. This cross-sectional study was performed in June of 2020. Investigators performed all screening, spin data extraction, and AMSTAR-2 appraisals in a masked, duplicate manner. In addition to evaluating spin in abstracts, associations between spin and particular study characteristics, and their methodological quality were analyzed.

Results: Our initial search returned 900 articles, of which 50 were included. Spin was present in 32.0% of these abstracts (16/50). We identified 7 of the 9 defined types of spin. Selective reporting of or overemphasis on harm favoring the safety of the experimental intervention was most prevalent, identified in 18% of the abstracts (9/50). Additionally, we found no significant association between spin and AMSTAR-2 appraisals or any other evaluated study characteristics.

Conclusions: Our findings illustrate the need for improved reporting accuracy in systematic reviews and meta-analyses related to testicular cancer. Because abstracts are often used by clinicians to guide clinical decisions, any misrepresentation of a systematic review’s findings could influence patient care.


  • oncology
  • testicular cancer
  • urology
  • systematic reviews
  • quality of reporting
  • spin

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