COMMENTS: Defensive Medicine Defies Science

Given the aging demographic of the audience for the nightly newscasts, it is a no-brainer that the recommendations by the National Cancer Institute on prostate cancer screening should make news. ABC's in-house physician Timothy Johnson (embargoed link) got a jump on the story Monday. Now NBC picks up on the advice about the PSA blood test for Robert Bazell's lead. The NCI found that prostate tumors in men over the age of 75 are not worth finding because, at that age, the cancer grows so slowly that it is not lethal--so it might as well be ignored. On CBS, Nancy Cordes found "mixed and inconclusive new evidence that routine screening helps lower the death toll" among the elderly. Bazell added that the National Institutes of Health are running a 15-year study involving 74,000 men into the benefits of the blood test even earlier in life. Monday, ABC's Johnson was skeptical that the tests would be halted despite the science. Physicians worry about the "occasional aggressive case of cancer in an older man that might be missed if you do not do screening. They worry about ending up in front of a jury in that kind of a case and so I think many doctors will still offer the test to older men."


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