Study Questions Progress Against Prostate Cancer

Tougher 'survivability' rates may skew real mortality figures, study suggests

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By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 7, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Prostate cancer survival rates may be falsely higher than they actually are, suffering from a clinical form of "grade inflation."

That's the conclusion of a new study that appears in the Sept. 7 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

A natural evolution has occurred in the way doctors score the survivability of individual prostate cancer cases, the researchers found. Doctors now judge cancers on a case-by-case basis as much more dangerous than they did as recently as 10 years ago.

That means that low-grade tumors are being labeled as more dangerous than they actually are, skewing mortality and survival rates for the disease by lumping less severe cases with more dire cases, the researchers said.

The researchers, at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, reviewed the cases of 1,858 men diagnosed with prostate cancer between 1990 and 1992. They reviewed the seriousness of each case, and found that today's doctors scored about 55 percent of the cases as potentially more deadly than did the doctors who first diagnosed the case.

The researchers suggested that doctors may be hesitant to assign a low score for fear of the cancer turning out to be more serious than first thought.

More information

The National Institutes of Health has more about prostate cancer.

SOURCES: National Cancer Institute, news release, Sept. 6, 2005

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