Cancer Society Caught Up in Controversy; Overplayed Breast, Prostate Cancer Screening Benefits

American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society has been caught up in controversy over a statement by Dr. Otis Brawley, ACS's Chief Medical Officer which hinted that benefits of screening in cases of Breast and Prostate Cancer are somewhat "exaggerated". The statement came as a response to doubts raised about the screening process by leading cancer doctors in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which analyzed the process and raised a question mark on the claim that screening can save lives.

Brawley backed the legitimacy of the doubts raised and commented that the ACS was currently in the process of re-looking its stance and message on the benefits of Breast and Prostate Cancer screening. Having said that, Brawley also added that ACS continually reworks its messages and guidelines, therefore this particular instance is hardly newsworthy.

"While the advantages of screening for some cancers have been overstated, there are advantages, especially in the case of breast, colon and cervical cancers. Mammography is effective – mammograms work and women should continue to get them. The American Cancer Society stands by its recommendation that women age 40 and over should receive annual mammography, and women at high risk should talk with their doctors about when screening should begin based on their family history", Otis shared.

While some ACS authorities are critical of Brawley's action of backing the claim in the Journal and issuing a controversial statement, he is not without his supporters. University of Michigan Breast Cancer expert, Dr. Daniel Hayes says, "I thought Otis Brawley's comments were very courageous and thoughtful".

What will become of the claims, and if the ACS will alter its guidelines and prior statements, remains to be seen.