The Award for Most Fear-Mongering Health Care Statement of the Year …

… goes to Skip Lockwood, head of a prostate cancer advocacy group called Zero. When the US Preventive Services Task Force recommended against routine screening of men with the PSA blood test, Lockwood said the PSTF’s advice “condemns tens of thousands of men to die this year and every year going forward…”

Prostate cancer kills about 30,000 American men a year, so if Lockwood is right, that means the PSA test would have prevented MOST of those deaths. If it was that obviously beneficial, why would so many doctors and health care leaders have such doubts? Last year, in a less publicized statement based on the same research studies, the American Cancer Society also pulled the plug on its advice for screening with the PSA test.

The fact is that fears of just this kind of over-the-top reaction caused the PSTF to delay its advice for two and a half years after definitive studies came out from Europe and the US showing that PSA testing just doesn’t do the job of putting any measurable dent in the death rate from prostate cancer. The PSTF was cowed by the blowback to its last big recommendation: that the numbers don’t justify routine mammograms for women in their 40s.

PSA testing has generated a billion dollar industry of urologists doing surgery on men, with high rates of impotence and incontinence in their wake. At the risk of making a bold statement in the opposite direction of Mr. Lockwood’s, it’s almost malpractice now to put men into routine prostate cancer screening when the odds are much greater for harm than help.

Even the inventor of PSA testing came out last year against its routine use in low-risk men. The test is best reserved for high-risk men who need monitoring after they’ve already had prostate cancer and need to know if it’s coming back.

But don’t try to confuse the advocates with scientific facts. They’d rather play on emotions.

Article first published as The Award for Most Fear-Mongering Health Care Statement of the Year … on Technorati.

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