Home > Read or listen to the book > Thumbnails > Examples > Discoverer of PSA speaks out

Discoverer of PSA speaks out

‘The test’s popularity has led to a hugely expensive public health disaster. It’s an issue I am painfully familiar with – I discovered PSA in 1970. . . .

Americans spend an enormous amount testing for prostate cancer. The annual bill for PSA screening is at least $3 billion, with much of it paid for by Medicare and the Veterans Administration.

Prostate cancer may get a lot of press, but consider the numbers: American men have a 16 percent lifetime chance of receiving a diagnosis of prostate cancer but only a 3 percent chance of dying from it. That’s because the majority of prostate cancers grow slowly. In other words, men lucky enough to reach old age are much more likely to die with prostate cancer than to die of it. Even then the test is hardly more effective than a coin toss. As I’ve been trying to make clear for many years now, PSA testing can’t detect prostate cancer and, more important, it can’t distinguish between the two types of prostate cancer – the one that will kill you and the one that won’t.’

Ablin RJ. The great prostate mistake. New York Times, 10 March 2010.