The Great Prostate Hoax: How Big Medicine Hijacked the PSA Test and Caused a Public Health Disaster

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Every year, more than a million  men undergo painful needle biopsies for prostate cancer, and upward of 100,000 have radical prostatectomies, resulting in incontinence and impotence. But the shocking fact is that most of these men would never have died from this common form of cancer, which frequently grows so slowly that it never even leaves the prostate. How did we get to a point where so many unnecessary  tests and surgeries are being done? In The Great Prostate Hoax, Richard J. Ablin exposes how a ...

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The Great Prostate Hoax: How Big Medicine Hijacked the PSA Test and Caused a Public Health Disaster

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Every year, more than a million  men undergo painful needle biopsies for prostate cancer, and upward of 100,000 have radical prostatectomies, resulting in incontinence and impotence. But the shocking fact is that most of these men would never have died from this common form of cancer, which frequently grows so slowly that it never even leaves the prostate. How did we get to a point where so many unnecessary  tests and surgeries are being done? In The Great Prostate Hoax, Richard J. Ablin exposes how a discovery he made in 1970, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA), was co-opted by the pharmaceutical industry into a multibillion-dollar   business. He shows how his discovery of PSA was never meant to be used for screening prostate cancer, and yet nonetheless the test was patented and eventurally approved by the FDA in 1994. Now, doctors and victims are beginning to speak out about the harm of the test, and beginning  to search for a true prostate cancer-specific  marker.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

In 1970, Dr. Richard Ablin identified PSA, the prostate specific antigen that became the basis for the test that has since been performed on tens of millions of American men. Since then, this Pathology professor has campaigned against the misuse of PSA as a prostate cancer screening device, an ineffective practice that he contends has ruined the sexual lives and continence of millions of those tested. In this bracing indictment, he is clear and emphatic about the culprit: the multibillionaire-dollar pharmaceutical industry.

From the Publisher

"The Great Prostate Hoax boldly exposes the profit, politics and fraud behind PSA screening, and the serious harm done to countless men. This is a must-read for every man, and the women who care about them." —Margaret I. Cuomo, M.D., author of A World Without Cancer

"Dick Ablin, the discoverer of PSA, provides the inside story of how it became P$A, a veritable public health disaster, harming millions of men. The Hoax is a unique and provocative look into big medicine and why we desperately need a better way forward." —Eric J. Topol, MD, Director, Scripps Translational Science Institute, Chief Academic Officer, Scripps Health and Professor of Genomics, The Scripps Research Institute; Author, The Creative Destruction of Medicine

 “An intriguing story of how strong financial interests can trump weak data.  And it goes well beyond the usual suspect – the manufacturer of the PSA test – to those who gain from more prostate cancer treatments and from cleaning up the resulting mess.”—H. Gilbert Welch MD, MPH, author of Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health

"The Great Prostate Hoax is the answer to my prayers, finally getting the message out to millions of men in jeopardy of undergoing unnecessary and debilitating treatments. Hoax sends a clear message that those who profit from PSA testing are doing so at the expense of countless men. A must read." —Alvin Cox, prostate cancer survivor who defied a nationally renowned urologist.

Library Journal
In a well-documented and introspective account, Ablin (pathology, Univ. of Arizona Coll. of Medicine) and science writer Piana examine the fallacies associated with detecting prostate cancer through PSA screening. Although Ablin takes credit for discovering the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in 1970, he vehemently argues against its use in screening men for the condition. According to Ablin, and many other physicians he has interviewed, PSA is not a good screening marker. However, many urologists continue to convince male patients to undergo procedures that are risky and that have a high probability of doing more harm than good. The author incorporates his 40-plus years of experience in the field of immunotherapy along with supportive medical opinion. Attempting to set the record straight, he does not hold back in pinning blame on the greedy actions of two primary stakeholders: big medicine and doctors, particularly urologists. References made to unnecessary treatment, wasteful spending, and the collusion between business and medical interests support abuses revealed in Norton M. Hadler's The Citizen Patient. VERDICT Wary medical consumers—men in particular—and health-care reformers alike should not overlook the wisdom that this title offers.—Chad Clark, Lamar State Coll. Lib., Port Arthur, TX
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-12-18
The scientist who discovered the prostate specific antigen in 1970 explains emphatically why he considers use of the PSA test for routinely screening healthy men for cancer to be a profit-driven national disaster. With the assistance of science writer Piana, Ablin (Pathology/Univ. of Arizona Coll. of Medicine) pulls no punches in this attack on what he sees as the misdeeds of the urology community, the biotech industry and the Food and Drug Administration. The author explains that PSA is not a cancer-specific biomarker, and he asserts that the use of the PSA as a diagnostic test has crippled millions of healthy men, afflicting them with incontinence and impotence. A high PSA number leads to a biopsy, which leads to surgery. The author charges the FDA with negligence for allowing the profit-motivated biotech industry to market the PSA test as a cancer test and greedy urologists in directing frightened men to undergo unnecessary biopsies and prostatectomies. Ablin's account is replete with names of specific individuals, companies, agencies and organizations, and he provides excerpts from documents and letters to back up his charges. Conversations with men who have undergone prostate surgery put a human face on the alarming statistics he provides. In addition to the human suffering that their stories reveal, the cost to Medicare of prostate surgery is hefty. While misuse of PSA is Ablin's central theme, he sees this situation as representative of a larger problem: science for sale. Citing the revolving door between the FDA and big medicine, the author asserts that those charged with protecting American health care consumers are often in tacit collusion with those who come before them for approval of their products. Serious charges voiced in strong language, certain to be met with rebuttals from those whose ox has just been gored, and a must-read for any man concerned about his prostate.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781137278746
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 305,896
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard J.  Ablin, PhD,  DSc (HON)  is a professor of Pathology at University of Arizona College of Medicine. In 1970 he identified PSA—the  prostate specific antigen that is used as a test for prostate cancer. For decades he has fought against the misuse of his discovery, including a 2010 New York Times op-ed titled “The Great Prostate Mistake.” He lives in Tucson, AZ.

Ronald Piana is a science writer specializing in oncology. He has published more than 400 bylined articles in leading medical journals.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 31, 2014

    This book describes the economics of prostate cancer overtreatment

    Presumably, most people read about prostate cancer because they or a loved one have received the diagnosis. For those readers, this book is important, but not the first book they should read. Your first book should be "Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers" by Dr.Mark Scholz and Ralph Blum. That book describes in great detail, why men should not rush to have that biopsy or prostate surgery. It offers convincing evidence that prostate cancer is a common disease that rarely kills men. Dr. Scholz asserts that if you want to estimate the probability of having prostate cancer, just put a % sign after your age.

    Dr. Albin's "Great Prostate Hoax answers the question of why American urologists would do so much harm to men by over-diagnosing this disease. As Watergate's Deep Throat once said, "Follow the money". It's all about the Billions of dollars being made by the American medical industry at the expense of men's lives.

    Dr. Albin will inform the reader countless times, that he is the researcher who discovered PSA. But he condemns the use of PSA to indicate the need for biopsy. The PSA test has led to an explosion of unnecessary prostatectomies that have ruined men's lives. Albin names names and settles old scores with this book, but by the end, you will be glad that he did. There's a whole lot of money to be made if you will just donate your prostates, fellas.

    So Schulz's book will describe the extent that the prostate industry is damaging mens' lives and Albin's book will explain the economic motivations behind it all.

    If you want to save your life and your prostate, you should read them both.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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