Earlier this month, another report recommended against mass screening for prostate cancer. This time it was a study funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and conducted by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Their position is that annual screening of m their 50s and 60s does not save lives. A critic pointed out that their research model was flawed in that a control group of men who were not screened was not part of the study. This study fall on the heels of a government committee’s recommendation last fall that mass screening for prostate cancer be stopped because it doesn’t save lives.
This month, the American Cancer Society published its annual statistics on various cancer types. Included in this report is a chart that graphs the deaths per 100,000 men for the seven cancers that kill the most men on a year-by-year basis since 1930. Prostate cancer was the third leading cause of cancer death to men from 1930 to the early 1980s when its increasing death rate surpassed that of cancer of the colon and rectum’s decreasing death rate. The death rate for prostate cancer continued to increase through the early to mid 1990s at which time it began to decrease and continues to decrease at about the same rate to the present. (See graph below)
The reason for the decrease in the death rate is not known with certainty. The likely contributing factors are: mass screening, improved treatment techniques, and treating the disease in earlier states. To make matters even less clear, these factors are interrelated. For example, mass screening detects prostate cancer at a much earlier stage of development than if the patient presented with symptoms. Higher levels of success are likely when treating earlier, lower-grade cancers with improved treatments.
Eliminating mass screening would likely result in more men presenting with symptoms that generally are related with prostate cancer at more advanced stages and are more difficult to treat. It seems intuitive that the direction of the graph would change dramatically if screening is terminated. The American Cancer Society report can be found at: http://www.cancer.org/Research/CancerFactsFigures/CancerFactsFigures/cancer-facts-figures-2012
Tags: Proton Therapy