Media gulled by prostate cancer study hyped by Windy City windbags

by Patrick Malone & Associates P.C. | DC Injury Lawyers

A well-known research university and some excitable journalists have sown confusion about prostate cancer and the value of the PSA screening test.  The mess can be traced to a study by physicians from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, and published in the journal Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Disease. Their article reports an “increase” in one of the most aggressive forms of the disease, metastatic prostate cancer, and suggests it might be caused by less use of the PSA blood test.

Northwestern’s PR machine hyped the study, saying that “Metastatic prostate cancer cases skyrocket.” NU’s news release—which was picked up by all too many media outlets (the Times shames them in visual fashion atop its story)—also tied this to “lax screening.” That was an allusion to recommendations by a blue-chip national panel that has advised against routine prostate cancer screening using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. The group said the screenings often resulted in false alarm “false positive” results, leading to invasive, harmful, unnecessary, and costly follow-on procedures.

As the online watchdog site points out, the Northwestern researcher author is a PSA testing proponent, a “true believer.” The site, as well as experts from the American Cancer Society and others, have debunked the study, saying it fails to demonstrate either that this form of prostate cancer has “skyrocketed” or that there is a proven link to reduced PSA screening.

In unusually pointed language, the cancer society’s chief medical officer told the New York Times that the Northwestern-Chicago study was “misguided epidemiology,” and said its authors “don’t know what they don’t know.”  On its website, the cancer society also posted details why the study is flawed:  the researchers, wrongly, relied on raw case numbers. As the Times explains:

The doctors examined the records of 767,550 men with prostate cancer diagnosed from 2004 to 2013. Using the number of cases of metastatic disease in 2004 (1,685) and 2013 (2,890), they reported an alarming increase of 72 percent. But for the United States population, that percentage could be meaningless.

Put it another way: the hubbub that this study caused was based on 1,205 cases over a nine-year period in a U.S. population of roughly 90 million men, ages 20 to 79. If you want to scratch your head about the claimed link to reduced PSA screening, also consider that the influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also did not issue its expert recommendation against this testing until 2012.

As I have written, evidence-based medicine must become the gold-standard if this nation is to reduce its costs, increase the access, and improve the quality and safety of care offered to Americans. Experts have applied more rigorous methods, and, have moved─correctly─to offer sounder guidance about the reflexively administered PSA test, annual physicals, regular mammograms for all women, and frequent pelvic exams for health women.  Preventive tests and procedures that benefit health outcomes merit support; we need to ease back on those that can lead to greater harm.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Patrick Malone & Associates P.C. | DC Injury Lawyers | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Patrick Malone & Associates P.C. | DC Injury Lawyers

Patrick Malone & Associates P.C. | DC Injury Lawyers on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.