So much for a 49% prostate cancer mortality rate in the UK!

As a follow-up to our earlier post on this topic, we have now identified the original media release issued by Kings College London and the UK’s National National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) on which today’s article in The Daily Telegraph (and other media) was based. That article clearly stated that up to 49 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer were dying from this disorder.

According to that media release (and this is an exact quote):

Researchers from King’s College London looked at 50,066 men with prostate cancer in the Thames Cancer Registry between 1997 and 2007.

Of this group, 20,181 died during the 10 years. And, of these deaths, 49 per cent were recorded as being due to the cancer itself. According to the study twelve per cent of deaths were caused by other cancers, 17 per cent from heart disease, 8 per cent were from pneumonia and 13 per cent were due to other causes.

In other words,  this study was based on 50,066 men from just one NHS region who were diagnosed with prostate cancer between 1997 and 2007 (not 20,000 as stated in The Daily Telegraph). Of those 50,066 men, 20,181 (or 40.3 percent ) died from all causes.

Of those who died, 49 percent (about 9,900) died of prostate cancer. This means that about 9,900/50,000 (19.8 percent) were, in  fact,  initially diagnosed with and died of prostate cancer within the study period.

This is still a significantly higher percentage of patients diagnosed with and dying of prostate cancer in the UK today than in the USA today … but it is nowhere near the 49 percent previously reported in The Daily Telegraph … and it also means that about 80 percent of men in the UK in the period from 1997 to 2007 were being diagnosed with prostate cancer and either died “with it” as opposed to “of it” or had not died at all.

As we had said in our prior post, “something did not add up.” It turns out that we were completely correct in that analysis! Someone at The Daily Telegraph clearly has egg on their face.

11 Responses

  1. What is about you guys always trying to understate the significance of prostate cancer deaths? 20% died … Are you kidding me? Why not comment on that and why early detection and awareness might change that number? Oh yeah … That doesn’t fit the narrative about the expense of PSAs, unnecessary biopsies, and that people are treated and exposed to all those nasty and pesky complications related to treatment. Instead of complimenting yourself in being the “truth detective,” see the real problem and spend your energies in helping the UK correct their dismal prostate cancer death statistics. Having said that, you do a yeoman’s job of evaluating the news about prostate cancer and distilling it on your site.

    PS: My remarks are for discussion only … I ain’t got a dog in this fight.


  2. Seems to be too much. Hope the reviews or other new studies show the usual expected lower rates.

  3. Dear Dr. McHugh:

    There is no dog. There is no fight. All we are trying to do is accurately evaluate the news and pass it on the the prostate cancer community. As far as we are concerned, every death from prostate cancer is a disaster … but prostate cancer is a “politicized” subject today. Scaring people into treatment with headlines like the one in The Daily Telegraph is shameful, and the media release issued by Kings College and the NCIN could have been much more carefully worded. Where we have opinions about the news, we try very hard to ensure that we express that opinion. However, unless we can get our hands on a lot more funding, “helping the UK to correct their dismal prostate cancer death statistics” is as far beyond our meager capabilities as is finding a better test than the PSA test to help evaluate risk from prostate cancer in the first place. In the context of the above, all we can do is “help the UK to tell the truth” about their dismal prostate cancer death statistics.



  4. This to me is more about the press once again misrepresenting the facts and skewing the story just to get a headline out of. Since being diagosed with prostate cancer I have been shocked about how irresponsible the press is. It seems they all do about 5 seconds of research, if any, before writing an article. I laugh every time I read something like this and can’t help but think of that famous line from Bullwinkle, when he said, “If it was printed in the paper then it must be true.”

  5. The study was based on a cohort of 20,000 + men that died and not on the 50,000 men diagnosed in that registry. One can only report cause of death in those that died. If one really wants to diminish the potential mortality of the disease why not use the 370,000 or so men that were diagnosed in those years? The point of the study is to demonstrate that prostate cancer is more deadly than has been reported when the disease is diagnosed late (as it is in the UK where the mortality rate of prostate is increasing). This is a sad situation in the UK where the use of PSA testing is low ….

  6. Ralph:

    That’s true … but the mortality rate still wasn’t 49.5 percent. That is a misleading statement. It was only 49.5% of the men who died.

  7. The cause of death in 49% of the patients that died was prostate cancer. You can’t include the other 50,000 because they are not dead. The study reported cause of death and not the mortality rate of death of the entire registry. How could they? Some 60% had not died …

    “Up to half the number of men with prostate cancer who die do so as a direct result of the disease, rather than from other causes according to a new study presented at the National Cancer Intelligence Network conference in London.” (For more see this report on the web site.)

  8. Ralph: I’m not disagreeing with you. All that I am saying is that there is no justification for the original claim in The Daily Telegraph (which has now unfortunately been replicated on Medscape) that 49.7% of men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK go on to die from it. The data don’t support anything close to approaching such an assertion.

  9. The Daily Telegraph article only talks about the 20,000+ cohort of dead men and says nothing about mortality rates. I though that it was factual.

  10. Ralph:

    The subhead of the Daily Telegraph article states that “Half of men with prostate cancer die from the disease itself.” That is not an accurate statement based on your own analysis. The clear implication of that statement is that the prostate cancer mortality rate is 49%.

  11. Mike,

    Where in the article does it says that the mortality rate was 49%? The article talks about a 20,000 men study in which the cause of death was prostate cancer in 49%.

    Why is this new news? Multiple studies from Scandinavia reported very high mortality in prostate cancer patients in the pre-PSA era. What is different now when in the UK the use of PSA is very low? As men avoid dying from lung cancer and vascular disease, prostate cancer will be an opportunistic cancer that will progress silently to an advanced stage without symptoms. In time and without PSA or a better marker this will be a reality as long as men are diagnosed with advanced disease.

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