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Progress Stalls in Lowering Prostate Cancer Death Rates

A 20-year decline in U.S. death rates from prostate cancer has leveled off. At the same time, more men are getting diagnosed with prostate cancer at later stages, according to a Sept. 4 Wall Street Journal report. These worrisome trends are at the center of a continuing debate about the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guideline for prostate cancer screening, while other organizations, like the American Cancer Society, consider updating their current screening recommendations. In the 1990s, the USPSTF, an organization that weighs evidence for preventive screening measures, recommended men receive prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing. However, in 2012, the task force recommended against PSA testing, noting concerns that include high rates of false-positive results and unnecessary treatment for men with prostate cancer that likely would pose no harm to them if left untreated. In 2018, the most recent task force update recommended that men 55 to 69 make an individual decision about screening after discussing with their physicians. “PSA recommendations have been ping-ponging back and forth, and what’s been lost in that is the high-risk people,” said Heather Cheng, a medical oncologist and director of the Prostate Cancer Genetics Clinic at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, in the article. The Journal noted the potential for harm may be less likely in current practices due to improved imaging techniques and doctors recommending a watch-and-wait approach to managing low-risk prostate cancer.

Many Non-English speakers in the US Are Turned Away Before First Cancer Visit

A new study published in the September 2023 issue of the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network describes barriers for non-English speakers who seek information on cancer care services through hospitals. Auditing 144 hospitals across demographically diverse states, researchers from the University of Michigan set up a series of simulated patient calls to various hospital general information lines, speaking in English, Spanish and Mandarin. Close to 94% of the English-speaking callers were provided with next steps to access cancer care—such as a telephone number or transfer to the clinic or department that was presumed to provide the requested care. Just 37% of the Spanish speakers had the same experience, and even fewer Mandarin-speaking callers were connected. About one-third of the U.S. Hispanic and Asian population has limited English proficiency, noted Debbie W. Chen, a researcher at University of Michigan and an author of the study, in a Healio article. “There is a need to develop focused interventions to mitigate these communication barriers that disproportionately impact the health of vulnerable patient populations with cancer,” she said in the article.

Research Spotlights Increases in Cancer Incidences Under 50

Research published online Sept. 5 in BMJ Oncology adds to evidence of growing incidence of cancer in people under age 50. Analyzing data from 204 countries that covered 29 cancer types, researchers found that new cancer cases among younger people increased sharply, by about 79% overall, from 1990 to 2019. The study also isolated cancer types with the highest increases in global incidence and death rates, including breast, tracheal, bronchus and lung, stomach, and colorectal cancer. It’s unclear what is driving the trend, noted Claire Knight, a senior health information manager at Cancer Research UK, who was not involved in the study, in a Sept. 5 article in the Guardian. She also urged caution, explaining that cancer is still primarily a disease of older age.