You’ve come to know Consumer Reports for its detailed analysis on everyday products from mattresses to baby products, appliances to used cars, and everything in between.
Now for the first time, the consumer’s guidebook has moved into a new niche by rating cancer screening tests.
It turns out most of these tests are being oversold to the public and may confuse, rather than clarify, the magazine reported in its latest March 2013 edition.
Consumer Reports said on its website that early detection saves lives when it comes to cancer and it's not trying to dissuade the public from all tests.
However, the report said that not all cancer screenings are helpful. In fact, some can even be harmful, that is, the risks are not outweighed by the benefits, the report’s authors said.
“When it comes to screening, most people see only the positives,” Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said in the report.
“They don’t just underestimate the negatives, they don’t even know they exist.”
In all, 11 cancer tests were rated for people not at high risk and without signs or symptoms of cancer, based mainly on evidence-based reviews from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group supported by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Screening tests for cervical, colon, and breast cancers are the most effective tests available, according to the publication.
But most people shouldn't waste their time on screenings for bladder, lung, oral, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic, skin, and testicular cancers.
"We know from our surveys that consumers approach screenings with an 'I have nothing to lose' attitude, which couldn't be further from the truth," said John Santa , M.D., M.P.H., director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, in a press release.
“Unfortunately some health organizations have promulgated this belief, inflating the benefits of cancer screenings while minimizing the harm they can do."
Santa said that the publication delved into this new area to help clarify when most consumers should use cancer screenings and when they should skip them.