KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Consumer Reports Details The Screening Tests That May Be Unnecessary

Consumer Reports/The Washington Post: "Many Americans -- and their doctors -- seem to think that better health means more health care, including as many screening tests as possible. But many researchers are questioning that notion, saying that some common screening tests are unproven and can not only waste your time and money but also cause more harm than good."

"To help identify preventive practices that work, the government-sponsored U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reviews the evidence for and against screening tests. (The task force generated controversy last month when it suggested that most women did not did not need mammograms as early or as often as some breast cancer experts suggest.)" The article discusses a number of exams -- including blood tests, genetic tests, ultrasounds and electrocariograms "to which the task force has given a D rating, meaning that they failed to meet the group's standards. More than 40 percent of routine preventive exams included D-rated tests, according to a 2006 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Many of those tests should be limited to people who have symptoms or risk factors for specific conditions" (12/8). 

Meanwhile, CBS News reports on a new government study: "Overall cancer rates are down in the last four years in almost every major demographic category according to a new joint report from national cancer and health groups. Both the rate of new diagnoses for all cancers and the rate of death from all cancers were down in the most recent study period, from 2001 to 2006, according to the report. ... [T]he drops were driven largely by declines in new cases and deaths from the three most common cancers in men (lung, prostate, and colorectal cancers) and for two of the three leading cancers in women (breast and colorectal cancer). ... Doctors attribute the overall declines to public health campaigns advocating for lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and to better early detection of cancers. But the overall declines still represent a mix of cancers on the decline and cancers on the rise" (12/7). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.