Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer teamed to deliver one of the best pieces on cancer screening that I’ve seen.
“Can Cancer Ever Be Ignored?” appears online today but will be in print in next Sunday’s New York Times magazine.
The piece includes great perspectives from:
Dr. Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society (“I’m not against prostate cancer screening. I’m against lying to men. I’m against exaggerating the evidence to get men to get screened.”)
Dr. Barry Kramer of the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute (“Men may be trading one cause of death for another.”)
Dr. Richard Ablin, who discovered a prostate-specific antigen and now calls the PSA test “a public health disaster”
Darryl Mitteldorf, executive direction of Malecare, a cancer patient support group, who says it is not uncommon for men to regret their decision to be tested and treated for prostate cancer.
Dr. David Newman of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NY, who says researchers must look not just at the number of deaths from prostate cancer but also at the number of deaths caused by treatment.
Dartmouth’s Dr. Gil Welch who says “The European trial says 50 men have to be treated for a cancer that was never going to bother them to reduce one death. Fifty men. That’s huge. To me, prostate screening feels like an incredibly bad deal.”
The piece also confirms that politics did enter into the decision to cancel a 2010 meeting of the US Preventive Services Task Force at which the group was to consider a proposal to give routine PSA testing a “D” rating – “D” as in don’t do it – for any man of any age. Apparently the heat from the USPSTF’s recommendation on mammography the previous year was still too great.
Former USPSTF staffer Dr. Kenny Lin writes about that clash between science and politics on his blog. Excerpt:
“I hope that the New York Times story sheds some much-needed light on the shadowy politics surrounding prostate cancer screening, and in so doing, allows the current Task Force to re-assert its recently curtailed independence and unfettered ability to make science-based recommendations for the good of the public, rather than the agenda of any politician or political party.”
Last month was prostate cancer awareness month. I only wish the New York Times had published this in the midst of all that hoopla.