Prostate cancer risk in perspective


A fascinating study by Woloshin et al., published in the June issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, has examined risks of death for Americans from specific causes (including prostate cancer) among smokers, never smokers, and former smokers, categorized by age. The table below gives just some of the relevant data.

The prostate cancer “fraternity” is rightly concerned about the importance of early detection and appropriate management for this potentially deadly disease, but context is always important when trying to understand why others do not necessarily agree with us about the importance of screening and early detection. Woloshin and his colleagues clearly demonstrate, for example, using careful actuarial analysis, that:

  • Until they are at least 65, men have a higher risk of death in an accident of some kind than from prostate cancer (regardless of your smoking history).
  • At age 65, again regardless of smoking history, men are between 8.5 and 12.5 times more likely to die of heart disease than they are of prostate cancer.

They also note that, at age 65:

  • Men who still smoke are 15 times more likely to die of lung cancer than prostate cancer.
  • Men with a smoking history are eight times more likely to die of lung cancer than prostate cancer.
  • However, men who have never smoked are slightly less likely to die of lung cancer than they are of prostate cancer.

One Response

  1. […] article, by Drs. Woloshin and Schwatz, follows a previous academic article on which we commented in this column at the beginning of September. The basic question that the authors are trying to […]

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