A recent study in the BMJ concluded that the massive breast cancer “prevention” program — having women get annual mammograms — had done more harm than good. Women were randomly assigned to get mammograms plus self-exam or self-exam alone. The death rate from breast cancer was the same in the two groups. However, women in the mammogram group were told they had cancer and received very painful and expensive treatment far more often than women in the other group. This being modern medicine, the true situation is even worse than what you read in any article about the (very negative) study. One critic has said that the randomization was not done properly. If true, this means that medical researchers, even when told exactly what to do, don’t do it, in ways that make a multi-million dollar study useless. In spite of billions of dollars and billions of hours spent on mammograms and billions of pink ribbons, we still know practically nothing about the environmental causes of breast cancer. (I suspect bad sleep is a major cause. Shift work is associated with breast cancer.)
A new book (to be published in March), titled The Great Prostate Hoax: How the PSA Test was Hijacked by Big Medicine and Caused a Public Health Disaster says that prostate cancer screening is no better. The book is by Richard Ablin, who discovered the prostate-specific protein used in the screening test. The trouble with the PSA test is simple. First, the reading is often high for reasons that have nothing to do with cancer. Second, prostate cancer is common (cancer increases as the fourth power of age) and usually benign.
In an interview, Ablin made some good points:
The US Food and Drug Administration failed in its duty to the public: its advisers warned that routine PSA screening would cause a public health disaster, but it was approved under pressure from advocacy groups and drug companies. . . . The unfortunate reality is that no current data show that men who undergo PSA screening live longer than men who decide against it.
A few years ago Ablin wrote an op-ed about this.