There are WMD’s lurking inside your body. And you better find them ASAP.
In its health section today, the Washington Post gives men of all ages screening test advice – much of it not grounded in the best medical evidence or at least not reflecting real controversies in health care.
They do one of those “What To Do In Your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s…” columns that news organizations find so appealing and that I find so incomplete.
So has the Star Tribune and many other news organizations.
Among the questionable advisories from the Post:
• Telling men in their 30s to “sign up for complete physicals”
• Telling men in their 40s to get a complete physical every two years
There was no mention of the controversies surrounding such recommendations - some experts calling it wasteful.
• Telling men in their 40s to start skin cancer screening.
Aren’t they aware that the US Preventive Services Task Force just last week stated :
“ the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of
benefits and harms of using a whole-body skin examination by a
primary care clinician or patient skin self-examination for the
early detection of cutaneous melanoma, basal cell cancer, or
squamous cell skin cancer in the adult general population.” ???
They go on to tell men in their 50s to have prostate cancer screening. (They do say the pros and cons should be discussed, but the recommendation for such screening stands nonetheless.)
Again, the USPSTF states: “the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening in men younger than age 75 years.”
What the Post promotes may be one doctor’s – or some doctors’ - opinion(s). But for a major newspaper to state these as if they were handed to Moses on stone tablets is wrong. There are uncertainties. There is controversy. Screening tests can cause harm - not just benefit. And good journalism should reflect that.