Cancer Society official: "flawed" study does NOT prove that PSA tests reduce cancer recurrence

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Dr. Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society asks, “Does PSA Testing Really Reduce The Risk of Prostate Cancer Recurrence?” on his blog. Excerpts:

“I don’t normally like to criticize the work of others in this blog, other than pointing out from time to time where I may disagree with a particular viewpoint or conclusion. But an abstract that is going to be presented this coming Monday at a meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology has received some degree of coverage in the press, and those reports are exceptionally uncritical of what I consider a flawed study.

The headlines are suggesting that the study demonstrates that even though PSA tests don’t necessarily save lives, they do lead to a reduction in cancer recurrence, and therefore are valuable. I am of the opinion that no such conclusion can be drawn from this research.

I have no problem with authors doing research and presenting abstracts. That’s what we do in medical science. But when studies are promoted, and the foundation of the conclusion is very suspect, and the press does nothing to address the obvious problems with the study, then I become a bit upset.

This is why I emphasize so often that new studies with new thoughts have to go through a process of presentation, review, discussion and criticism. In my personal opinion, promoting this study in the press based on such a basic flaw does a disservice to the men in this country who are faced with a dilemma of trying to decide whether or not PSA screening is right for them.”

In his blog, he also points out how “SOURCE ZERO – The Project to End Prostate Cancer” – an advocacy group – is promoting the study with its own news release. In the paragraph in which he links to this news release, Lichtenfeld writes:

“That’s why I am so concerned about the press coverage this paper is receiving. It looks good, sounds good, may be good, but it is fundamentally flawed. The reporters who covered it should have realized what was going on here and backed off. This is not a paper that should influence anyone about the value of getting or not getting prostate cancer screening.”

I only wish he had named names of the news organizations he felt were misrepresenting the story. We do this every day. We need to shine a light on excellence and to expose those who do more harm than good with their stories.

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Comments (2)

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Gunther Dohse

November 2, 2010 at 7:23 pm

I wished that those who question the validity of PSA testing would tell us who have prostate cancer what to do.
Can’t we use the effort nay-saying into research that gives us reliable tools?
The debate is depressing me.