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Evidence-Based Healthcare

Representation of Cancer in the Medical Literature - A Bibliometric Analysis
Published: Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Author: Ronan W. Glynn et al.

by Ronan W. Glynn, Ji Z. Chin, Michael J. Kerin, Karl J. Sweeney


There exists a lack of knowledge regarding the quantity and quality of scientific yield in relation to individual cancer types. We aimed to measure the proportion, quality and relevance of oncology-related articles, and to relate this output to their associated disease burden. By incorporating the impact factor(IF) and Eigenfactorâ„¢(EF) into our analysis we also assessed the relationship between these indices and the output under study.


All publications in 2007 were retrieved for the 26 most common cancers. The top 20 journals ranked by IF and EF in general medicine and oncology, and the presence of each malignancy within these titles was analysed. Journals publishing most prolifically on each cancer were identified and their impact assessed.

Principal Findings

63260 (PubMed) and 126845 (WoS) entries were generated, respectively. 26 neoplasms accounted for 25% of total output from the top medical publications. 5 cancers dominated the first quartile of output in the top oncology journals; breast, prostate, lung, and intestinal cancer, and leukaemia. Journals associated with these cancers were associated with much higher IFs and EFs than those journals associated with the other cancer types under study, although these measures were not equivalent across all sub-specialties. In addition, yield on each cancer was related to its disease burden as measured by its incidence and prevalence.


Oncology enjoys disproportionate representation in the more prestigious medical journals. 5 cancers dominate yield, although this attention is justified given their associated disease burden. The commonly used IF and the recently introduced EF do not correlate in the assessment of the preeminent oncology journals, nor at the level of individual malignancies; there is a need to delineate between proxy measures of quality and the relevance of output when assessing its merit. These results raise significant questions regarding the best method of assessment of research and scientific output in the field of oncology.