Prostate Cancer and Other Causes of Death Are Viewed Through a Different Window
Abstracted from: New York Times (7/2/02) and Journal of National Cancer Institute (6/5/02)
When people weigh therapeutic alternatives---especially for diseases like localized prostate cancer---an important factor is always the overall expected longevity. Mortality rates have traditionally been expressed in terms of chances of dying over a lifetime. Now researchers with the Veterans Administration and Dartmouth Medical School have compiled near-term disease-specific mortality, making risk estimates quite concrete.
Writing in the June 5, 2002 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Drs. Woloshin, Schwartz, and Welsh compile data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics. The results are tabulated for both smokers and non-smokers, showing the chances of dying from one of the common causes over the next 10 years of life.
The authors conclude that the risk charts will help people better understand and compare the important health threats they face." Risk perception was described by author Woloshin as a "constant interplay between reason and emotions." The new tables have been welcomed by physicians as a simple way for the average patient to understand various health risks. In particular, the effects of smoking on longevity are clearly shown for all the common mortality categories.
Caveats in use of the new charts are summarized by the authors: first, the charts are derived from death certificates, which may not always be correct; second, the charts give no insight into a person's chance of developing a disease (incidence), only of dying from it; and third, the charts are not individualized (aside from age, sex, and smoking history), but represent average risk.
CNN coverage with a statement from AUA President
And for those who think seconds count, look at this! But we sure don't vouch for this one!!