Survival News

Breast Cancer Can Grow and Spread for Decades Before “Early” Detection

Nutrition blog - Tue, 12/07/2021 - 07:00

“Early” detection is actually really late. Without mammograms, breast cancer may not be caught for an average of 22.8 years. With mammograms, though, breast cancer may only grow and spread for…21.4 years.

Critics of breast cancer screening claim that, on a population scale, mammograms have never been shown to actually prolong women’s lives on average. But, as you can see at 0:16 in my video Why Mammograms Don’t Appear to Save Lives, there was a clear drop in breast cancer mortality in both the UK and Denmark right when routine mammograms were introduced.

That didn’t appear to be the case in Switzerland, though, where breast cancer mortality had been declining for years before routine mammograms were introduced, so let’s go back and explore what happened in the UK. “It is tempting to conclude that breast screening was causal”—that is, caused the drop in mortality—but it’s a little suspicious that the drop happened immediately. You’d expect it to take a few years to manifest.

What’s more, if you split up the UK data by age group, the whole thing falls apart. At 0:54 in my video, I show a graph that illustrates how the numbers play out—rates of breast cancer mortality by age group over the years. Women in the 50 to 64 age group were the only ones who started screening around the same time, but there were mortality drops in other age groups of women who were not getting mammograms. This was true for the Denmark data as well. They had the same drop in breast cancer mortality with or without screening. What’s going on? 

As you can see at 1:22 in my video, the US data are similar to the UK’s. The United States experienced a beautiful drop in breast cancer mortality right when mass mammograms were introduced around 1990. We saw an even more dramatic drop, however, among women getting less screening, and an even greater drop in breast cancer mortality among women not getting mammograms at all. “In other words, there was a larger relative reduction in mortality among women who were not exposed to screening mammography than among those who were exposed.” What happened? The decrease in mortality “must largely be the result of improved treatment, not screening.” 

Breast cancer mortality started dropping all around the world at the same time, regardless of when mammogram screening started, as you can see at 1:59 in my video. There was “no relation at all between start of screening and the reduction in breast cancer mortality.” “The declines…are more likely explained by the introduction of tamoxifen,” an estrogen-blocking drug. As you can see at 2:15 in my video, breast cancer death rates clearly plummeted in the United States after the Food and Drug Administration approved tamoxifen in 1990.

This doesn’t mean breast cancer screening isn’t playing a role, though. In fact, randomized controlled trials have shown that routine mammograms may reduce breast cancer mortality by 20 percent. Now, that 20 percent drop represents the change from about five in a thousand women dying from breast cancer without screening during that time down to four in a thousand women dying with screening. So, the risk of dying for women who are invited for routine screening is practically the same as the risk of dying for women who are not getting mammograms. What’s more, this is assuming mammograms don’t increase deaths from other causes. In fact, “[i]f we take into account the cardiac and lung cancer deaths caused by radiotherapy,” the radiation treatments given to women who are overdiagnosed with pseudo disease and unnecessarily treated for cancer, thanks to mammography, “there appears to be no mortality benefit.”

Why aren’t mammograms more effective? It seems so simple. Just catch the disease early, right? It turns out that by the time breast cancer is caught by mammograms, it may have already been growing for decades. “It is therefore misleading to say that cancers are caught ‘early’ with screening. They are caught very late…” Without mammograms, breast cancer may not be caught for 22.8 years. With mammograms, however, breast cancer may grow and spread for 21.4 years. It’s not surprising that mammograms don’t do a better job at preventing breast cancer deaths since the cancer can spread before you can even cut it out. Concerns have even been raised that the trauma from surgery may accelerate the growth of any cancer left behind, which may would help explain why there isn’t more benefit to screening. 

Regardless, nine out of ten women may still be in the dark, “overestimating the mortality reduction from mammography screening by at least one order of magnitude,” by ten-fold or more. About the same percentage of men thought similarly about prostate cancer screening, vastly overestimating the benefits or simply not knowing. Only 1.5 percent of women surveyed were in the ballpark, choosing “the best estimate for reduction in mortality due to breast cancer screening.” Ironically, those who reported “frequent consulting of physicians” and reading health pamphlets did even worse, overestimating the benefits of screening programs even more. 

Decades ago, a director of a mammogram project, realizing even back then that routine mammograms may not actually be saving women’s lives, asked as she lay on her death bed before succumbing to breast cancer herself, “Are we brainwashing ourselves into thinking that we are making a dramatic impact on a serious disease before we brainwash the public?”

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • There appeared to be a drop in breast cancer mortality in the UK and Denmark when routine mammograms were introduced, but not in Switzerland. A closer look at the UK and Denmark data shows that there were mortality drops in age groups of women not getting mammograms, as only those in the 50 to 64 age group began getting screened.
  • Similarly, the United States experienced a drop in breast cancer mortality right when widespread mammograms were introduced, but a more dramatic drop was found in women getting less screening and an even larger drop was seen in breast cancer mortality among those not getting mammograms at all.
  • Breast cancer mortality began dropping around the world at the same time, regardless of when mammography screening began, thought likely due to the introduction of tamoxifen, an estrogen-blocking drug.
  • Randomized controlled trials have found that routine mammograms may reduce mortality from about five in a thousand dying from breast cancer without screening down to four in a thousand, so risk of death for women invited for routine screening is almost the same as for those not getting mammograms.
  • When cardiac and lung cancer deaths caused by radiation treatments given to women who had been overdiagnosed with pseudo-disease and unnecessarily treated for cancer, as a result of mammography, there appears to be no mortality benefit at all.
  • By the time breast cancer is caught by mammograms, they may have been growing for decades. Without mammograms, breast cancer may not be caught for 22.8 years. With mammograms, however, breast cancer may grow and spread for 21.4 years, nearly the same amount of time.
  • Nine out of ten women may still be unaware, overestimating the mortality reduction from mammograms by ten-fold or more, a percentage also seen in men who think similarly about prostate cancer screening.

Because “early” detection is actually really late, we can’t wait for a diagnosis to start eating more healthfully. Get going with these videos and tips: 

There is so much confusion when it comes to mammography, combined with the corrupting commercial interests of a billion-dollar industry. As with any important health decision, everyone should be fully informed of the risks and benefits, and make up their own mind about their own bodies. This is one installment in my 14-part series on mammograms, which includes: 

For more on breast cancer, see my videos Oxidized Cholesterol 27HC May Explain Three Breast Cancer MysteriesEggs and Breast Cancer and Flashback Friday: Can Flax Seeds Help Prevent Breast Cancer?

I was able to cover colon cancer screening in just one video. If you missed it, see Should We All Get Colonoscopies Starting at Age 50?.

Also on the topic of medical screenings, check out Flashback Friday: Worth Getting an Annual Health Check-Up and Physical Exam?Is It Worth Getting Annual Health Check-Ups? and Is It Worth Getting an Annual Physical Exam?

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live presentations:

Topic Roundtable for 12-6-21 – Epi – 2995

Survival Podcast - Mon, 12/06/2021 - 12:59
Time for another topic round table discussion. This one is from things I simply see and hear going on in the world around us today along with some emailed in questions and discussions on social media. We will start with … Continue reading →

A Wartime Economy: Tips for Financial Survival

Organic Prepper - Mon, 12/06/2021 - 07:36
by Jose Martinez

Navigating a wartime economy can be tricky. If you’re not able to cope, you’ll quickly that your financial emergency has led to a survival emergency.

For those … Read the rest

The post A Wartime Economy: Tips for Financial Survival appeared first on The Organic Prepper.

Can Cholesterol Get Too Low?

Nutrition Video - Mon, 12/06/2021 - 06:50
Why might healthy lifestyle choices wipe out 90 percent of our risk for having a heart attack, whereas drugs may only reduce risk by 20 to 30 percent?

Gluten-Free Christmas Cornflake Wreath Cookies (Made Healthier)

Real Food RN - Mon, 12/06/2021 - 05:03

These are so much fun to make with the kiddos during the holiday season. Just a few simple ingredients are all you need to whip up a batch of festive wreath cookies.

The post Gluten-Free Christmas Cornflake Wreath Cookies (Made Healthier) appeared first on Real Food RN.

Building A Whiskey Barrel Wall – How To Create An Incredible Accent Wall!

Old World Garden - Sun, 12/05/2021 - 07:39

Who knew you could create an amazingly unique, attractive and stunning accent wall for next to nothing – all by simply recycling old whiskey barrels and lids! After we finally …

The post Building A Whiskey Barrel Wall – How To Create An Incredible Accent Wall! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

Australia Has Fallen. Is Our Nation Next?

Organic Prepper - Sat, 12/04/2021 - 08:03
by Jeff Thompson

Australia has fallen. 

Regular readers of world events have long since understood this fact – that Australia has turned into a fascist state reminiscent of The Children Read the rest

The post Australia Has Fallen. Is Our Nation Next? appeared first on The Organic Prepper.

Introduction To Permaculture

Insteading - Fri, 12/03/2021 - 17:10

Interested in permaculture and not sure what to plant? This could be a great article to get ideas for unique and useful permaculture species!

Before we begin, let’s talk about what permaculture is. 

What Is Permaculture?

Permaculture is a land management or agricultural approach which aims at adopting itself to mimic natural ecosystems as closely as possible in a sustainable way. Therefore, permaculture aims to adopt species arrangements and placements to mimic what is seen in flourishing natural ecosystems as closely as possible. This can mean planting border species on naturally occurring borders like planting blackberries along roadsides or forest edges.

It can also reflect planting species along natural contour (topography) lines. Permaculture typically tries to avoid monoculture and monocrops (as you don’t often find this in natural ecosystems) and often utilizes companion planting or intercropping.

Bamboo // Elizabeth ButtramWhy Try Permaculture?

Permaculture is a more permanent approach to land care and agricultural systems at large. This minimizes replanting season after season, which further decreases personal maintenance and monetary costs.

Benefits of Permaculture

The ecological and environmental benefits of permaculture are nearly endless:

  • Contributes to a more stable habitat for wildlife
  • Decreases long-term soil disturbance,
  • Increases CO2 sequestering
  • Decreases your personal carbon footprint
  • Provides you with fresh foods
  • Improves your relationship with the land
Downside of Permaculture

Perhaps the biggest and only downside to permaculture (if you experience resistance to change) is it can be a learning curve to begin. If you’re patient, have a willing attitude to learn, and have the time to do it, it will be a rewarding challenge.

digitearte // flickrDifferent Permaculture Species

We’ll be covering 10 species here. It is important to note that individual research should be done on your end to determine if these species would be suitable for your area. Factors that may influence species success include soil type, local weather and climate conditions, and the presence or absence of shade. 

Another notable thing to add is that many prefer to do permaculture with native species to help keep natural ecosystems more intact and consistent. This, as with most things, is a personal preference and should be thoughtfully decided.

Moringa – Moringa oleiferaForest and Kim Starr // Flickr

Also known as the Tree of Life, moringa is a widely cultivated plant around the world. It is fast growing, drought-resistant, and able to thrive in diverse soil conditions. 

Nearly every part of trees can be used from the seed pods to the leaves. The leaves are rich in vitamins, and can be eaten directly as salad greens, cooked like spinach, or even dried and added to stews (the leaves taste delicious). The seed pods are used in homeopathic medicines to help treat parasites and other infections. Sometimes soap is made. 

These trees are easy to care for as you can simply allow them to grow to their full capacity, or cut them back annually to keep the leaves within arm’s reach. Moringa is resilient, and does well with repeated cuttings.

Pineapples – Ananas comosusPineapple // Elizabeth Buttram

Once established, pineapples do not need much attention. It is important, however, to note that in cooler climates, pineapples need a lot of sun, and in very hot climates, they need more shade. In both climate conditions, they need ample amounts of moisture to thrive.

Pineapples are usually grown for their delicious fruit, but they are also aesthetically pleasing, and can be used as an effective natural fence barrier if you are interested in live fencing. With that said, they are sharp and stout, which should be a consideration before planting them or harvesting.

Blackberries and Raspberries – Rubus spp.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ve included both species together here, as they generally grow and exist in the same conditions. 

Blackberries and raspberries are pioneer species, meaning they like being the first species to colonize open fields and forest edges. This trait is why you often find these species on the edges of roads, fences, and fields, and it is something to keep in mind when selecting a planting location. They generally prefer lots of sun, although they can do just as well in partial shade. They thrive in a wide variety of climates and soil conditions, too. My biggest suggestion with these species is to set up some sort of trellis system (or simply plant them along a fence line). It will make harvesting these thorny plants much easier if your end goal is food-oriented. 

Blueberries – Vaccinium sect. Cyanococcus

Blueberries need full sunlight and slightly acidic soil. They usually won’t produce fruit for a few years, but once they begin, they will continue for decades.

Blueberries are wonderful for their fruit and aesthetic appeal. Every year, they produce white or pink, small bell-shaped flowers. Annually, not much work needs to be done to maintain these bushes. Weeding can be beneficial to decrease nutrient competition, and trimming them back so they don’t grow out of arm’s reach can also be helpful. However, allowing them to grow to their full capacity is beautiful and can provide vital food for wildlife species, especially birds.

Blueberries // Flickr

Turmeric – Curcuma longa and Ginger – Zingiber officinaleDormant Stage of Ginger in Cultivation // Elizabeth Buttram

Like blackberries and raspberries, ginger and turmeric have similar growth requirements. I combined the two here.

Turmeric and ginger don’t require much aftercare once they’re established. However, they do have specific wants/needs to be successfully cultivated. Both of these species need filtered sunlight throughout the day. Planting them under trees can successfully achieve this condition. They also need a lot of moisture. If you’re in a very wet area climatically, this is perfect. If not, you may need to install irrigation such as drip lines. If you’re establishing them from a finger bulb, they often sit dormant for a while before any green offshoots begin showing aboveground. So it is important to know where you have placed them, and avoid any soil disturbance in that area, as to not injure any dormant finger bulbs.

Hibiscus – Hibiscus spp.

There are many different varieties and species of hibiscus. Because of this diversity, it’s important to do personal research to reach your cultivation goals. For example, if you want to grow hibiscus specifically for the flowers (which are beautiful), or you would like to grow hibiscus for the tangy tea, there are different species you may want to cultivate.

Once established, hibiscus will continue on its own with little to no aftercare. Although, this plant does best when regularly mulched or weeded. If growing from seed, you generally need to soak the seeds for 24 hours before planting to help encourage quicker growth. 

Bamboo – Bambusa spp.Bamboo Growing on Road Edge // Elizabeth Buttram

Like most of the species listed above, there are many different varieties of bamboo that you can choose. Some do better in colder climates and high altitudes, while others prefer warmer environments with more moisture. Some bamboo species are short and stout, while others grow tall and lean. Likewise, there are many color varieties of bamboo. For these reasons, bamboo can be a really fun species to cultivate (as you have many options). And because of bamboo’s diversity, it can be grown in a wide variety of locations. 

A note of caution if you decide to cultivate this species: It is prone to taking over! It is similar to blackberries and raspberries as a pioneer species that prefers open fields and forest edges. If given the opportunity to grow freely, it will.

Red Clover – Trifolium pratenseJohn Munt // flickr

Red clover is easy to establish and can be an excellent choice for both aesthetics and wildlife. Deer, rabbits, and other small herbivorous animals love red clover and forage on it when it’s available (excellent if you don’t want it to grow too high but do not like mowing). Also, butterflies and other pollinators utilize red clover. 

It is quite common to see red clover growing along scenic highways and in open fields with butterflies all over. Red clover grows easily once it has been propagated and needs virtually no maintenance or upkeep (unless you prefer it to be trimmed back to not take over areas). 

Red clover is prone to taking over areas and easily outgrows competitor species. This is a word of caution if you do not want that result. 

Another warning for red clover has to do with where you decide to plant it. Planting it alongside busy roads can be harmful for whatever wildlife may be utilizing the clover. Most butterfly death actually has to do with wind speed coming off passing cars. And of course, car collisions with wildlife are scary and sad. If you’re in an area that has a lot of wildlife, you should be particularly cautious about planting near roadsides. 

Final Thoughts on Permaculture

There are numerous permaculture species that could be discussed here, but hopefully, this short starter list will give you some ideas of the wide range of possibilities. Remember to do your research about native versus non-native species. Likewise, remember to check if the species you choose to plant is compatible with your geographic and climatic location. Although, it can be fun planting species that are said to be incompatible in your area — to see if you can get them established. Just be aware it may create a hindrance for you. Best of luck!

Red Four-Leaf Clover // Elizabeth Buttram

Out Back with Jack – Epi-2904

Survival Podcast - Fri, 12/03/2021 - 10:25
Today we we have our Friday show,  “Outback with Jack”.  These podcasts will be generated though back porch live steam sessions done early on Friday mornings.  That will be approximately 0730-0830 CST. These podcasts will are a lot like old … Continue reading →

The Printed Website: Volume III & The Comments

Low Tech Mag - Fri, 12/03/2021 - 09:55

The printed archives of Low-tech Magazine now amount to four volumes with a total of 2,398 pages and 709 images. All books are printed on demand. 

Low-tech Magazine Volume III

The newest Low-tech Magazine book collects 18 articles published between 2018 and 2021. At 368 pages it’s a thin book compared to earlier volumes. When we started the book series, the challenge was to unlock an archive of almost 12 years. It made sense to pack this content into as few volumes as possible.

However, looking ahead, we will publish more often, once every one to three years, depending on the number of articles written. From now on, the articles will be arranged chronologically, from oldest to newest, and no longer the other way around. This volume contains 184 images in black and white.

Low-tech Magazine: The Comments

We also launched a book which collects almost 3,000 comments on the roughly 100 articles which are published in the three other books. This volume has 688 pages and no images. We included all feedback up to November 7, 2021. Read more about the comments book here.

Over the years, readers have often stated that the comments on the website are (at least) as interesting as the articles themselves. We agree. Low-tech Magazine would not have been even half what it is now without the comments. You can even take this literally, because this is one of the thickest books we have published so far, despite the extra small font we use.

New Edition

Finally, we have published a second edition of the first book we published in 2019. This new edition has almost twice as many images and follows the same design as the other volumes. In contrast to the first edition, the images are not "dithered" and of higher quality. We use a smaller font to pack more content on fewer pages. This second edition also fixes some errors in the articles and the references.

The printed archives of Low-tech Magazine now amount to four volumes with a total of 2,398 pages and 709 images.

Contents Volume III How Circular is the Circular Economy? Keeping Some of the Lights On: Redefining Energy Security Heat your House with a Mechanical Windmill Reinventing the Small Wind Turbine How to Make Wind Power Sustainable Again Mist Showers: Sustainable Decadence? Too Much Combustion, Too Little Fire How Sustainable is a Solar Powered Website? Fruit Trenches: Cultivating Subtropical Plants in Freezing Temperatures Thermoelectric Stoves: Ditch the Solar Panels? How to Make Biomass Energy Sustainable Again How and Why I Stopped Buying New Laptops Vertical Farming Does not Save Space How Sustainable is High-tech Health Care? Urban Fish Ponds: Low-tech Sewage Treatment for Towns and Cities How to Design a Sailing Ship for the 21st Century? How to Build a Low-tech Solar Panel? Fascine Mattresses: Basketry Gone Wild

Name Your Price for Our Thrifty Christmas Book!

Organic Prepper - Fri, 12/03/2021 - 09:32

Of all the holidays, Christmas is the one that is the most magical for children…and often the most stressful for adults. It seems like every year, the wish lists get … Read the rest

The post Name Your Price for Our Thrifty Christmas Book! appeared first on The Organic Prepper.

How Governments Are Using Democracy to TAKE AWAY Freedom

Organic Prepper - Fri, 12/03/2021 - 07:16
by Fabian Ommar

Author of The ULTIMATE Survival Gear Handbook and  Street Survivalism

Can democracy be used to take freedom and liberty from a people? Last Sunday, the Swiss government … Read the rest

The post How Governments Are Using Democracy to TAKE AWAY Freedom appeared first on The Organic Prepper.

Flashback Friday: Best Way to Cook Vegetables

Nutrition Video - Fri, 12/03/2021 - 06:50
Boiling, steaming, microwaving, air frying, and sous vide cooking are put to the test for nutrient retention.

Crypto Thoughts for 12-2-21

Survival Podcast - Thu, 12/02/2021 - 15:27
I don’t expect this will be weekly segment but there are times when I figure it would be good to give a short update on this subject.  May be once a month or every few weeks but no promises just … Continue reading →

Lobelia inflata

Smokable Herbs - Thu, 12/02/2021 - 12:51
Be aware that Lobelia Inflata is toxic and must be consumed carefully under the care of a medical practitioner. Overview The lobelia inflata is a tall, fuzzy-stemmed plant that grows native through the southeastern portion of Canada, down the east coast, and all the way into Alabama. Native Americans and 19th century doctors used the …

Lobelia inflata Read More »

Expert Council Q&A for 12-2-21 – Epi–2993

Survival Podcast - Thu, 12/02/2021 - 12:27
Today on The Survival Podcast the expert council answers your questions on voluntarism, omicron, trust, keto diet, rocket mass heaters, livestock, wood stoves, mobile homes, homeschool, life purpose and more. Make sure if you submit content for a feedback show … Continue reading →

Improving Poor Soil with the Deer Plot Method

David the Good - Thu, 12/02/2021 - 11:09

My wife Rachel is quite pregnant at the moment, so I did a video vlog-style yesterday and took the camera out to my soil-improvement plots, which look suspiciously like deer food plots:

If you’re going to use chemical fertilizers, I recommend using them to build humus!

Our soil is getting richer through planting cover crops and tilling them under. When the ground needs compost, why not grow your own in place?

The post Improving Poor Soil with the Deer Plot Method appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

ESCAPE: How to Evade Trackers and Tracking Dogs

Organic Prepper - Thu, 12/02/2021 - 07:20
by Kit Arthur Owner and Founder of Tackleberry Solutions: Teaching Wartime Tactics for Civil and Home Defense

Through years of working with other military professional recon soldiers, special forces, police, … Read the rest

The post ESCAPE: How to Evade Trackers and Tracking Dogs appeared first on The Organic Prepper.

How To Keep A Live Christmas Tree Healthy – Before, During & After Christmas!

Old World Garden - Thu, 12/02/2021 - 07:20

If you are considering purchasing a live Christmas tree this year to celebrate the season, there are a few key tips and tricks to make it sure it can stay …

The post How To Keep A Live Christmas Tree Healthy – Before, During & After Christmas! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

Learn More Than 97% of Doctors About Lead-Time Bias

Nutrition blog - Thu, 12/02/2021 - 07:00

After reading this, you’ll know more than an estimated 97 percent of doctors about a critical concept called lead-time bias. 

While running for president of the United States, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani ran a campaign ad contrasting his 82 percent chance of surviving prostate cancer in the United States with the 44 percent chance of surviving it in England “under socialized medicine” where routine PSA testing for prostate cancer is not done. “To Giuliani this meant that he was lucky to be living in New York and not in York, because his chances of surviving prostate cancer seemed to be twice as high in New York. Yet despite this impressive difference in the five year survival rate, the mortality rate”—the rate at which men were dying of prostate cancer—“was about the same in the US and the UK.” How could that be? PSA testing increased survival from 44 to 82 percent, so how is that “not evidence that screening saves lives? For two reasons: The first is lead time bias…The second is overdiagnosis.” 

As I illustrate at 1:05 in my video Breast Cancer and the Five Year Survival Rate Myth, overdiagnosis is when a cancer that otherwise would have never caused a problem is detected. Consider this: Let’s say that, without screening, only 400 people out of a thousand with progressive cancer are alive five years later. That means that without screening, the five-year survival rate is only 40 percent. But, let’s say that with screening, an additional two thousand cancers are overdiagnosed, meaning cancers that would have never caused a problem or may have disappeared on their own are picked up. So, because those cancers are harmless, those overdiagnosed patients all still alive five years later, assuming their unnecessary cancer treatment didn’t kill them. In this way, the five-year survival rate has just doubled, even though in either case, the same number of people died from cancer. If that’s confusing, watch the video. That’s one way the changes in survival rates with screening may not correlate with changes in actual cancer death rates. 

The other way is lead time bias. Imagine a group of patients who were diagnosed with cancer because of symptoms at age 67 and all died at age 70. Each patient survived only three years. So, the five-year survival rate for the group is 0 percent. Now, imagine that the same group underwent screening. By definition, screening tests lead to earlier diagnosis. Suppose that with screening, the cancers were diagnosed in all patients at age 60 instead of 67, but, nevertheless, they all still died at age 70. In this screening scenario, each patient survived ten years, which makes the five-year survival rate for this group 100 percent. Survival just went from 0 to 100 percent! You can imagine the headlines: “ Cancer patients live three times longer with new screening test, ten years instead of three.” All that really happened in this screening scenario, though, is that the people were treated as cancer patients for an additional seven years. If anything, that would likely just diminish their quality of life. 

So, that’s the second way that changes in survival rates with screening may not correlate with changes in actual cancer death rates. In fact, the correlation is zero, as you can see at 3:14 in my video. There is no correlation at all between increases in survival rates and decreases in mortality rates. That’s why “[i]f there were an Oscar for misleading statistics, using survival statistics to judge the benefit of screening would win a lifetime achievement award hands down. There is no way to disentangle lead time and overdiagnosis biases from screening survival data.” That’s why, “in the context of screening, these statistics are meaningless: there is no correlation between changes in survival and what really matters, changes in how many people die.” Yet, that’s what you see in the ads and leaflets from most of the cancer charities and what you hear from the government. Even prestigious cancer centers, like M.D. Anderson, have tried to hoodwink the public this way, as you can see at 3:57 in my video.

If you’ve never heard of lead time bias, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Your doctor may not have heard of it either. “Fifty-four of the 65 physicians [surveyed] did not know what the lead-time bias was. Of the remaining 11 physicians who indicated they did know, only 2 explained the bias correctly.” So, just by having read to this point in this blog post, you may already know more about this than 97 percent of doctors. 

To be fair, though, is it possible the doctors don’t recognize the term but understand the concept? No. “The majority of primary care physicians did not know which screening statistics provide reliable evidence on whether screening works.” In fact, they “were also 3 times more likely to say they would ‘definitely recommend’ a [cancer screening] test” based on “irrelevant evidence,” compared to a test that actually decreased cancer mortality by 20 percent. 

If physicians don’t even understand key cancer statistics, how are they going to effectively counsel their patients? “Statistically illiterate physicians are doomed to rely on their statistically illiterate conclusions, on local custom, and on the (mostly) inaccurate promises of pharmaceutical sales representatives and their leaflets.” 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Overdiagnosis, the detection of cancer that otherwise would never have caused a problem, can result in unnecessary cancer treatments and affect survival rates of breast cancer patients.
  • For example, without screening, the five-year survival rate is 40 percent. With screening, however, overdiagnosis results in more cancer patients, despite the likelihood that their cancers are harmless or may disappear on their own. And, those overdiagnosed patients should be alive after five years, which doubles the five-year survival rate, even though the same number of patients died from cancer.
  • Lead time bias is also an issue. Symptomatic patients may be diagnosed at a later age than had they been with screening, which, by definition, leads to earlier diagnosis. In this case, imagine patients were diagnosed without screening at age 67 and died three years later, so the five-year survival rate is 0 percent. Now imagine the group underwent screening and the cancers were diagnosed at age 60, so they were alive for ten years before dying at 70. In the screening scenario, the five-year survival rate for the group is 100 percent.
  • In fact, there is no correlation between increases in survival rates and decreases in mortality rates.
  • It is not possible to disentangle the biases of lead time and overdiagnosis from screening survival data.
  • The overwhelming majority of doctors—54 out of 65 physicians surveyed—are unfamiliar with lead time bias, and of the 11 who indicated they did know, only 2 explained the bias accurately.
  • How can doctors who don’t even understand key cancer statistics effectively counsel their patients?

There is just so much confusion when it comes to mammography, combined with the corrupting commercial interests of a billion-dollar industry. As with any important health decision, everyone should be fully informed of the risks and benefits, and make up their own mind about their own bodies. This is one installment in my 14-part series on mammograms, which includes:

For more on breast cancer, see my videos Oxidized Cholesterol 27HC May Explain Three Breast Cancer MysteriesEggs and Breast Cancer and Flashback Friday: Can Flax Seeds Help Prevent Breast Cancer?

I was able to cover colon cancer screening in just one video. If you missed it, see Should We All Get Colonoscopies Starting at Age 50?.

Also on the topic of medical screenings, check out Flashback Friday: Worth Getting an Annual Health Check-Up and Physical Exam?Is It Worth Getting Annual Health Check-Ups? and Is It Worth Getting an Annual Physical Exam?

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live presentations:

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