Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Some Thoughts about Prostate Cancer

I have had some experience with prostate cancer in my family and have done quite a bit of reading on the subject. I am not a physician and my conclusions are those of an average (hopefully well informed) health care consumer. Here they are:

--The best defense against prostate cancer and other prostate symptoms is to abandon the SAD (standard American diet) and opt for a high nutrition, plant-based diet. It is better to take all reasonable means to prevent, rather than rely on early detection and medical treatment, which in the case of prostate cancer has a poor track record.
--Be especially diligent about avoiding dairy products, which have been linked to both prostate and breast cancer.
--Regarding the PSA exam - research seems to indicate that populations who are screened (PSA and Digital (finger) have no lower death rates from prostate cancer than unscreened populations. This seems counter-intuitive, but a very interesting book, Should I Be Screened for Cancer: Maybe not and Here is Why by H. Gilbert Welch, M.D., provides some powerful arguments to avoid many cancer screening tests.
--Those who are screened for prostate cancer are more at risk for the side effects of treatment for prostate cancer. It appears that screening does not lower mortality rates. Here is a good summary of the pros and cons of the PSA test that I took from the Mayo Clinic website

According to Dr. Fuhrman in his newsletter of July 2005, the sad truth seems to be that many of us who have consumed a standard American diet most of our lives probably have prostate cancer, whether it is detected by the PSA exam or not. The good news is that most of us will not die from prostate cancer. If we are screened, however, we have a much higher chance of being biopsied, stressed out and possibly treated in ways that cause significant side effects without benefits that extend our lives.

I have personally made the decision to optimize my lifestyle including a plant-based diet, and forgo screening for prostate cancer. I know this is a very controversial topic and many will disagree. Many people think it is irresponsible not to be screened, but I am much more worried about being subjected to errors in medical judgment that result from the PSA exam (an extremely blunt instrument for detecting cancer) than I am from possibly being one of the very few men who might have aggressive prostate cancer and have it diagnosed properly and caught in time.

Dr. Welch, in the book cited above, says that everyone needs to make his own decision on this topic, but that it is a very reasonable decision to weigh all the factors and make the decision not to be screened.


kneecap said...

Good post. I have made the same decision regarding mammograms.

Howard Veit said...


I was wondering how you would react. Mammograms and PSAs are similar in that they are both very blunt instruments. Would you consider doing a similar post on your Blog regarding Mammograms?

Howard Veit said...

I was going to include screening for breast cancer in my post, but decided against it. Discussion of both PSAs and Mammograms are very controversial and laden with emotion -- understandable so. I decided to leave it to the women to discuss Mammograms.

kneecap said...

Sorry, I didn't see this until now. But Dr. Fuhrman did it for me. I linked to it, as you did.

I have never had a mammogram (was luckily reluctant even before I learned how useless they are). But everytime I see a doctor, I get told I absolutely MUST do it!!! The pressure is very high.