Medical centers love celebrities. And America loves football. So it must have seemed a natural for the PR department of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to write a news release about prostate cancer screening in NFL retirees. Excerpt:
"They may be retired National Football League players and coaches but clearly, they still enjoy the camaraderie of a team atmosphere. Even at M. D. Anderson's Genitourinary Center.
Recently, M. D. Anderson and the American Urological Association (AUA) teamed up to screen 37 NFL retirees from the Houston area as part of a 10-city series that the NFL Player Care Foundation initiated to address the medical needs of retired players.
"We screened 37 men between the ages of 31 and 77 at this event and, as former NFL players and coaches, they have tremendous potential to carry the message of the importance of screenings."
M. D. Anderson recommends that men, beginning at age 50, have an annual digital rectal exam (DRE) and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. For men with a family history of prostate cancer or African-American men, screening should begin at age 45 because of the increased risk."
1. MD Anderson's screening recommendation is in conflict with that of the US Preventive Services Task Force, which states that:
• The current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening in men younger than age 75 years.
• The USPSTF recommends against screening for prostate cancer in men age 75 years or older.
2. MD Anderson's screening of the 31-year old is in conflict with its own stated recommendation.
Maybe the guy was fully informed and still wanted to be screened. Maybe he was at especially high risk - something that then should have been stated in the news release to explain this extraordinarily young age to begin prostate screening.
Or maybe neither of the above.
Maybe, as the release stated, it was just to "enjoy the camaraderie of a team atmosphere." Bend over and take a digital rectal exam to feel part of a team. And roll up your sleeve for the "simple blood test" whose results may leave your head spinning because you've just been screened outside the boundaries of evidence-based wisdom.