For years I’ve been writing to you about the dangers and futility of “routine” cancer screenings. And two prominent experts in the field made the same case against them in the January 2018 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
They argue that routine screenings can influence the incidence — and even the identification of risk factors — for five common types of cancer.
The authors say just the very act of observing something changes it. And they cite prostate cancer as the original “poster child” for the problems that result from routine screenings.
As you may recall, prostate cancer diagnoses skyrocketed in the mid-1980s and early 1990s. Then, they declined steadily in the following decades.
No known genetic factors, tumor biology, or cancer-causing processes can explain prostate cancer’s rapid rise and fall…
Instead, as the authors point out, it paralleled the rise and fall of the use of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test…
The PSA test was originally intended only to monitor men who were already diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was not intended as a “routine screening” for all men.
But in the 1980s and early 1990s, doctors got caught up in the “catch-it-early” craze mentality. And they began to routinely, but inappropriately, order the PSA test for ALL men over 40. Local health departments even provided these tests for free! As a result, prostate “cancer” rates went through the roof.
Eventually, though, physicians became suspicious of the test’s accuracy. And they began to place limits on it. The administration of the test then plummeted — first in older men, and then in all men. And of course, prostate cancer diagnoses dropped back dramatically.
Now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends doctors stop ordering it altogether. And government health insurance programs no longer reimburse for PSA tests.
Excessive screening results in increased cancer rates
Cancer screening is a very imperfect practice. And excessive cancer screening — with rigorous scrutiny — leads to the detection of more “fake cancers.”
In other words, when doctors screen patients with the intention of looking for cancer, they’re more likely to find very small, “abnormal” growths. But these growths would never cause harm to the patient in his or her lifetime otherwise.
Not to mention that excessive screening distorts the perception of actual risk factors for cancer…
Risk factors blown out of proportion
With prostate cancer, family history is a relatively weak risk factor in studies where all men undergo a biopsy. However, in men who undergo screening and then biopsy, the risk of family history climbs to more than double.
How does this happen?
As you might suspect, doctors more often recommend men with a family history of prostate cancer to get PSA testing. And this inaccurate screening test leads to a lot of unnecessary biopsies, which then detect a lot of “fake cancers.”
It may seem like men with a family history would have a higher risk of prostate cancer. But really, they’re just more likely to be sent for a biopsy, which is more likely to find something “abnormal.”
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, in a way. Indeed, the essay authors called it a “self-fulfilling” risk factor. And it makes family history appear to be a higher risk factor than it really is.
It’s a similar story with breast, colon, skin, and thyroid cancer…
Screening increases extreme diagnoses in more types of cancer
In each of these cases, cancer rates shoot way up simply as a result of the screening itself. But the growths represent no real danger. And if simply left alone, the vast majority of men and women would never end up with clinically significant cancer.
Plus, in the case of thyroid cancer, the screening process itself altered our perception of risk factors — just as it did with prostate cancer.
For example, experts consider being female a prominent risk factor for thyroid cancer, as women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with it compared to men in the U.S.
But — women are also three times more likely to be screened for it.
Now, consider this…
Thyroid cancer deaths are rare. Plus, the death rates from thyroid cancer are virtually identical between men and women, which suggests that sex isn’t a true risk factor. It’s just a product of the excessive screening that occurs with women.
More worries on the horizon
The authors express concern that newer, high-tech screening options will just exacerbate the problem.
They say increased genetic testing will further increase cancer diagnoses because of the additional scrutiny applied.
In other words, doctors will urge people who test positive for a supposed “cancer gene” to get additional — and often more aggressive — screenings, leading to the detection of more cancers, whether they turn out to be a false alarm or not.
In my view, the government-industrial-medical complex should focus entirely on whether a screening test actually decreases cancer death rates.
As I’ve always said, statisticians can’t misrepresent the results when looking at death rates. And that’s what we should all be concerned about anyway.
Yet, the cancer industry continues to promote useless — and even harmful — routine screenings.
It’s almost as if the life of the cancer industry itself depended upon it. Hmmm…
This is just one of many facts about cancer and cancer screenings you simply won’t hear from the mainstream medical establishment. Which is why this Sunday, February 11th at 3 p.m. I’ll be hosting an in-depth online Cancer Reversal Summit.
Unfortunately, spaces are limited for this event, and it WILL fill up fast. So if you or someone you love is facing a cancer diagnosis — or looking to avoid one — I encourage you to click here to reserve your spot today.
P.S. Speaking of problematic cancer screenings, tomorrow I’ll tell you about the added dangers of colonoscopy for anyone with IBD. Stay tuned!
“Scrutiny-Dependent Cancer and Self-fulfilling Risk Factors,” Annals of Internal Medicine (www.annals.org) 1/16/2018
“For Five Cancers, Screening Skews Risk Factors,” Medscape (www.medscape.com) 1/2/2018