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Should we be looking for disease in people who don't have any symptoms? A large new study indicates the answer is NO.
Subject to an increasingly expansive disease screening programs, unsuspecting healthy individuals are being transformed into patients every day. Massive 'awareness raising' campaigns funded by industries that either cause disease by creating and promoting harmful products, or make profit from the diseases by diagnosing and treating them, dominate mainstream culture, with their tentacles reaching deep into both private and public (i.e. governmental) sectors. Think of KFC's now defunct "Buckets for the Cure" campaign, or Susan G. Komen's stamp of approval on a Fracking Drill bit supposed to help find a cure. Or, how about our very own Whitehouse saturating itself with Pink light during Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
What do these 'awareness raising' efforts have in common? They almost all funnel the miseducated masses into fear-driven screening programs that promise to 'save lives' by 'detecting disease early' instead of focusing on removing and/or lessening the preventable causes of disease. Why not employ real prevention and focus on root cause resolution, which is to say, dietary changes, detoxification, and various modifiable lifestyle factors such as stress reduction -- none of which, incidentally, require pharmaceutical intervention. In the case of cancer, the primary focus should be on removing exposure to cancer-causing agents (carcinogens).
But cancer awareness raising campaigns intentionally avoud the term "carcinogen," as removal of these primary drivers were an irrelevant consideration. The problem is that conventional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation are themselves carcinogenic, and should be avoided in principle by anyone looking to prevent, treat and/or reverse cancer, undermining the cancer industry's main cash cow for the past half century. Additionally, if you focus on identifying and removing the cause, you can't get people to throw billions of dollars into fund-raising campaigns by promising a cure that only exists as a possibility in the future, and requires ceaseless cash offerings and supplication to the biotech, pharmaceutical and medical 'Gods.'
So, have these disease campaigns met their promises?
This all important question is now drawing widespread attention following the publication of study in the International Journal of Epidemiology titled: "Does screening for disease save lives in asymptomatic adults? Systematic review of meta-analyses and randomized trials."1
As many of our readers who follow our work are already aware, routine mass screening for cancer in healthy populations commonly leads to overdiagnosis (finding lesions that do not cause harm or death), and when not identified as such, overtreatment (a euphemism to what amounts to succumbing to medical abuse).
Screening also leads to a staggering level of false-positives, with the 10 year cumulative rate for women receiving annual x-ray mammography reaching 50%. Even when false positives are identified, and the patient avoids unnecessary surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, research shows that the trauma of the false-positive is as severe as a real positive breast cancer diagnosis, for at least six months following the diagnosis.
Overdiagnosis is exceedingly common primarily because of mistakes in cancer classification based on a fundamental, at least half century old misunderstanding of cancer biology. In 2013 the National Cancer Institute commissioned an expert working group to look at present day definitions of screen detected cancers such as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) ('breast cancer'), high grade intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN) ('prostate cancer') and thyroid papillary carcinoma (thyroid 'cancer'), with the shocking conclusion that these should be reclassified as non-cancerous, benign growths of epithelial origin.
Yes, after millions in the U.S. over the past few decades had their breasts, prostates, ovaries, and thyroids removed as a 'precautionary' approach, now they are being told they never had cancer to begin with. In other words, they had abnormal tissue growth that would never have progressed to cause harm or death. But these non-malignant lesions or tumors were treated as if they were life-threatening cancers anyway, with patients often losing their breasts or prostates as a result of medical errors that were disingenuously recorded in cancer statistics as 'life saving' interventions that 'detected cancer early,' resulting in inflating the '5-year survival' rates in a way that appears to show medical progress. These semantical and statistical misrepresentations, are why, absurdly, the cancer industry can announce that they saved over a million lives in the past few decades, when in fact quite the opposite may be true.
As summarized on Science Daily, the new study confirms that despite screening programs picking up millions of new 'early cancer' diagnoses disease-specific mortality has not declined significantly as would be expected if these 'cancers' were actually non-benign or life threatening":
"Screening for disease is a key component of modern healthcare. Yet, new surprising new research shows that few currently available screening tests for major diseases where death is a common outcome have documented reductions in disease-specific mortality. Evidence was evaluated on 16 screening tests for 9 major diseases where mortality is a common outcome. The researchers found 45 randomized controlled trials and 98 meta-analyses that evaluated disease-specific or all-cause mortality. Reductions in disease-specific mortality were uncommon and reductions in all-cause mortality were very uncommon."
Many in the U.S. are still not aware that breast screening for women aged 40-49 and PSA-based prostate screening in healthy men lost their endorsement in 2009 and 2012, respectively, by the U.S. Preventive Task Force (USPSTF), explicitly because of concerns that the psychological and physical harms of overdiagnosis and overtreatment outweighed their benefits in reducing cancer specific mortality. In fact, prostate screening was associated with increased mortality! Although not discussed by the USPSTF, we have detailed the many ways which which mammography is likely increasing mortality in those undergoing them.
According to Science Daily, senior author of the new study, professor John Ioannidis stated:
"Our comprehensive overview shows that documented reductions in disease-specific mortality in randomized trials of screening for major diseases are uncommon. Reductions in all-cause mortality are even more uncommon. This overview offers researchers, policy-makers, and health care providers a synthesis of RCT evidence on the potential benefits of screening and we hope that it is timely in the wake of recent controversies." [emphasis added]
There are vast resources of energy, money, and time put into screening programs. This new meta-analysis should put a pause in the ongoing push to have asymptomatic people subject themselves to unnecessary screening. But the truth is that only we can make these decisions for ourselves. The medical-industrial complex will likely continue to push for these programs regardless of the evidence against them, and the governmental agencies in charge of overseeing them will likely continue to default to a cheerleading instead of regulatory role. We can only hope that our readers continue to educate themselves and make a fully informed choice.
1 Nazmus Saquib, Juliann Saquib, and John Ioannidis. Does screening for disease save lives in asymptomatic adults? Systematic review of meta-analyses and randomized trials. International Journal of Epidemiology, 2015 DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyu140
Sayer Ji is the founder of GreenMedInfo.com, an author, educator, Steering Committee Member of the Global GMO Free Coalition (GGFC), and an advisory board member of the National Health Federation.
He founded Greenmedinfo.com in 2008 in order to provide the world an open access, evidence-based resource supporting natural and integrative modalities. It is widely recognized as the most widely referenced health resource of its kind.