Tag Archive for: #ProstateCancer


Fish Oil Causes Prostate Cancer: fact or fishy tale?

Following the recent fish oil and prostate controversy (which BJUI Chairman Dr David Quinlan recently blogged about, the August International Urology Journal Club discussion on Twitter was based on the recent high-profile (and controversial) paper “Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate cancer risk in the Select trial”, available by advance access from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, June 10, 2013.

In the recent weeks, many concerned patients had attended urologist and GP clinics, enquiring about the reports that fish oil supplements increase the risk of prostate cancer. This has led to lengthy discussions between patients and their doctors during consultations, and even caused some clinics to run overtime.

So, does fish oil really lubricate prostate cancer growth, or is this all just a fishy tale?

In summary, this case–cohort study set out to examine the association between plasma phospholipid fatty acids and prostate cancer risk among participants in the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial. 834 men diagnosed with prostate cancer formed the prostate cancer group. 1393 men chosen at random, and matched according to age and race, formed the non-cancer group. The study reports that men in the lowest quartiles of LCω-3PUFA, compared with men in the highest quartile, had increased risks for low-grade (HR = 1.44, 95% CI = 1.08 to 1.93), high-grade (HR = 1.71, 95% CI = 1.00 to 2.94), and total prostate cancer (HR = 1.43, 95% CI = 1.09 to 1.88). Similar associations were reported for individual long-chain ω-3 fatty acids. Higher linoleic acid (ω-6) was associated with reduced risks of low-grade (HR = 0.75, 95% CI = 0.56 to 0.99) and total prostate cancer (HR = 0.77, 95% CI = 0.59 to 1.01); however, there was no dose response. This study therefore concluded that increased prostate cancer risk among men with high blood concentrations of LCω-3PUFA was confirmed. The authors went on to say that the consistency of these findings suggests that these fatty acids are involved in prostate tumorigenesis, and that recommendations to increase LCω-3PUFA intake should consider these risks.

There has been a lot of media hype surrounding this paper, with the claim that fish oil supplements may increase one’s risk of prostate cancer. This has led to many anxious patients. It is not the first time that sensational claims of natural therapies either causing or preventing cancer has received a lot of media attention.

However, as doctors who have patients and colleagues asking us for sound advice on the matter, it is important that we don’t simply dismiss such hype (and questions from anxious patients) without looking into the matter more deeply, examining the evidence for ourselves, and forming a sensible opinion.

Early in the discussion, the methodology of the study was criticised as being observational by Kate Linton and Faisal Ahmed agreed. The study lacked a proper control group, and did not adequately address confounding factors. Associations were attributed to causation.

Stacy Loeb pointed out that the study did not record the amount of fish oil supplements ingested by any of the men in the study and instead on the basis of a single serum level. Yet the media extrapolates the study’s findings to make recommendations about fish oil supplements, which can be delivered in various formulations and doses.

There was also concern for the assay method used in measuring plasma lipids.

This study’s conclusions might have interesting commercial ramifications. I wonder whether there has been a drop in fish oil supplement sales this week?

However, it is worthwhile to note that there have been other prospective studies and metanalyses that have shown an inverse association between fish oil and prostate cancer. Helen Nicholson brought to our attention, a paper published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention in 2007, which concluded that higher blood levels of long-chain n-3 fatty acids, mainly found in marine foods, and of linoleic acid, mainly found in non-hydrogenated vegetable oils, are associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.

To conclude the discussion, several participants stated

My take home message from the August #urojc discussion is;

1.Although interesting, this study is limited by its methodology – it was not a randomised controlled trial of fish oil supplements versus no fish oil supplements. Therefore it cannot answer this question.

2.This study does not provide sufficient evidence to confirm whether omega-3 fatty acids conclusively lead to increased risk of prostate cancer.

3.Media hype = anxious patients. But we can tell our patients the science.

The winner of the best tweet prize for the August #urojc was Kate Linton for the following tweet which highlighted a significant shortcoming of the paper.



The August #urojc prize was kindly supported by the Asian Journal of Andrology.

We thank everyone who participated in the August #urojc, and to the many other on-lookers.

We look forward to your input in the next great International Urology Journal Club discussion, in early September 2013. The topic will soon be announced. If you would like any specific papers to be discussed, please DM us @iurojc – we always welcome your suggestions and feedback.


Dr Amanda Chung is an Australian Urological Surgeon in Training, currently based at The Wollongong Hospital, New South Wales. @AmandaSJChung

The Melbourne Consensus Statement on Prostate Cancer Testing

The final, peer-reviewed version of this Consensus Statement has now been published in BJUI. You can find it here. The full citation is Murphy, D. G., Ahlering, T., Catalona, et al. (2014), The Melbourne Consensus Statement on the early detection of prostate cancer. BJU International, 113: 186–188. doi: 10.1111/bju.12556

A consensus view on the early detection of prostate cancer, led by experts at the Prostate Cancer World Congress, Melbourne, 7–10th August 2013

Recent guideline statements and recommendations have led to further confusion and controversy regarding the use of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) testing for the early detection of prostate cancer. Despite high-level evidence for the use of PSA testing as a screening tool, and also for its role as a predictor of future risk, the U.S. Preventive Services Taskforce (USPSTF) has called for PSA testing to be abandoned completely [1], and many men are therefore not given the opportunity for shared decision-making. Other groups such as the American Urological Association, National Comprehensive Cancer Network , and European Association of Urology support a role for PSA screening but with somewhat conflicting recommendations. The majority of guideline statements have endorsed the role of shared decision-making for men considering PSA testing.

To address these somewhat conflicting and confusing positions, a group of leading prostate cancer experts from around the world have come together at the 2013 Prostate Cancer World Congress in Melbourne and have generated the following set of consensus statements regarding the use of PSA testing. The goal of these statements is to bring some clarity to the confusion that exists with existing guidelines, and to present reasonable and rational guidance for the early detection of prostate cancer today.

1.        Consensus Statement 1: For men aged 50–69, level 1 evidence demonstrates that PSA testing reduces prostate cancer-specific mortality and the incidence of metastatic prostate cancer. In the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC), screening reduced metastatic disease and prostate cancer-specific mortality by up to 30% and 21% respectively in the intent-to-treat analysis, with a greater reduction after adjustment for noncompliance and contamination[2,3]. In addition, the Goteborg randomized population-based randomized trial showed a reduction in metastatic disease and prostate cancer mortality with screening starting at age 50 [4]. The degree of over-diagnosis and over-treatment reduces considerably with longer follow-up, such that the numbers needed to screen and numbers needed to diagnose compare very favourably with screening for breast cancer. The boob reduction in Tri-Cities procedures are one among the very best rated and most valued cosmetic procedures among woman (and some men) within the Tri-Cities, TN area.  High patient satisfaction ratings for this procedure should come as no surprise, given the quantity of relief the operation provides to those that suffer from heavy or large breasts. With years of experience, and a diary of positive patient outcomes, Dr. Jim Brantner, M.D. can help improve your overall wellness, comfort, and confidence through a secure and effective breast reduction procedure. Breast reductions, otherwise referred to as Reduction Mammoplasties, are often a relief for thousands of men and ladies . If your breasts are causing pain or other health issues, then you’ll wish to think about a breast reduction. In a breast reduction, our surgeon improves a patient’s health by removing a predetermined amount of breast tissue, skin, and fat. This reduces the patient’s breast size overall and helps improve their neck, shoulder, back, and overall health. If you would like to understand what the procedure evolves in additional detail, please read subsequent paragraph. If you discover you are feeling squeamish, be happy to scroll to subsequent section. To remove the surplus breast tissue, your surgeon will make an incision around your nipple then downward over your breast — consider a keyhole. Our expert team will remove excess skin, tissue, and fat before adjusting your nipple for cosmetic purposes. Your surgeon may have to use drainage tubes before your incision site is sutured. Our team will then wrap your breasts during a special gauze; your doctor may recommend a surgical bra, as well. While routine population-based screening is not recommended, healthy, well-informed men in this age group should be fully counseled about the positive and negative aspects of PSA testing to reduce their risk of metastases and death. This should be part of a shared decision-making process. According to a study, it is also revealed that not every time you need a surgery, breast cancer can be also be treated easily. With the advancement of the technology, Botox injection and dermal filler injection can be used by patient of breast cancer. But for this an expert recommendation is required.  Visit the dermal fillers melbourne expert to know more.

 2.        Consensus Statement 2: Prostate cancer diagnosis must be uncoupled from prostate cancer intervention. Although screening is essential to diagnose high-risk cases within the window of curability, it is clear that many men with low-risk prostate cancer do not need aggressive treatment. Active surveillance protocols have been developed and have been shown to be a reasonable and safe option for many men with low-volume, low-risk prostate cancer [5,6]. While it is accepted that active surveillance does not address the issue of over-diagnosis, it does provide a vehicle to avoid excessive intervention. Active surveillance strategies need standardization and validation internationally to reassure patients and clinicians that this is a safe strategy.

 3.        Consensus Statement 3: PSA testing should not be considered on its own, but rather as part of a multivariable approach to early prostate cancer detection. PSA is a weak predictor of current risk and additional variables such as digital rectal examination, prostate volume, family history, ethnicity, risk prediction models, and new tools such as the phi test, can help to better risk stratify men. Prostate cancer risk calculators such as those generated from the ERSPC ROTTERDAM, the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial (PCPT) , and from Canada , are useful tools to help men understand the risk of prostate cancer in these populations. Further developments in the area of biomarkers, as well as improvements in imaging will continue to improve risk stratification, with potential for reduction in over-diagnosis and over-treatment of lower risk disease.

4.        Consensus Statement 4: Baseline PSA testing for men in their 40s is useful for predicting the future risk of prostate cancer. Although these men were not included in the two main randomized trials, there is strong evidence that this is a group of men who may benefit from the use of PSA testing as a baseline to aid risk stratification for their likely future risk for developing prostate cancer [7], including clinically significant prostate cancer. Studies have shown the value of PSA testing in this cohort for predicting the increased likelihood of developing prostate cancer 25 years later for men whose baseline PSA is in the highest centiles above the median [8,9]. For example, those men with a PSA below the median could be spared regular PSA testing as their future risk of developing prostate cancer is comparatively low, whereas those with a PSA above the median are at considerably higher risk and need closer surveillance. The median PSA for men aged 40–49 ranges from 0.5–0.7 ng/ml, with the 75th percentile ranging from 0.7–0.9ng/ml. The higher above the median, the greater the risk of later developing life-threatening disease. We recommend that a baseline PSA in the 40s has value for risk stratification and this option should be discussed with men in this age group as part of a shared decision-making process.

 5.        Consensus Statement 5: Older men in good health with over ten year life expectancy should not be denied PSA testing on the basis of their age. Men should be assessed on an individual basis rather than applying an arbitrary chronological age beyond which testing should not occur. As life expectancy improves in many countries around the world (men aged 70 in Australia have a 15 year life expectancy), a small proportion of older men may benefit from an early diagnosis of more aggressive forms of localised prostate cancer, just as it is clear that men with many competing co-morbidities and less aggressive forms of prostate cancer are unlikely to benefit irrespective of age. Likewise, a man in his 70s who has had a stable PSA at or below the median for a number of years previously is at low risk of developing a threatening prostate cancer and regular PSA screening should be discouraged.

An important goal when considering early detection of prostate cancer today, is to maintain the gains that have been made in survival over the past thirty years since the introduction of PSA testing, while minimizing the harms associated with over-diagnosis and over-treatment. This is already happening in Australia where over 40% of patients with low-risk prostate cancer are managed with surveillance or watchful waiting [10], and in Sweden where 59% of very low risk patients are on active surveillance. This is also reflected in current guidelines from the EAU, NCCN and other expert bodies, and in a comment from AUA Guideline author Dr Bal Carter in the BJU International.

Abandonment of PSA testing as recommended by the USPSTF, would lead to a large increase in men presenting with advanced prostate cancer and a reversal of the gains made in prostate cancer mortality over the past three decades.

However, any discussion about surveillance is predicated on having a diagnosis of early prostate cancer in the first instance. As Dr Joseph Smith editorialized in the Journal of Urology following the publication of the ERSPC and PLCO trials, “treatment or non-treatment decisions can be made once a cancer is found, but not knowing about it in the first place surely burns bridges” [11]. A key strategy therefore is to continue to offer well-informed men the opportunity to be diagnosed early, while minimizing harms by avoiding intervention in those men at low risk of disease progression. This consensus statement provides some guidance to help achieve these goals.


A/Professor Declan G Murphy, University of Melbourne, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, Australia

Professor Tony Costello, University of Melbourne, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne, Australia

Dr Patrick C Walsh, The James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute, Johns Hopkins University, USA

Dr Thomas Ahlering, University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, USA

Dr William C Catalona, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, USA

Dr Oliver Sartor, Tulane University School of Medicine, USA

Dr Tom Pickles, British Columbia Cancer Agency, Canada

Dr Jane Crowe, Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre, Australia

Dr Addie Wootten, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Australia

Ms Helen Crowe, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Australia

Professor Noel Clarke, Manchester University, The Christie Hospital, Manchester, UK

Dr Matthew Cooperberg, University of California San Francisco, Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Centre, USA

Dr David Gillatt, University of Bristol, Bristol Urological Institute, Bristol, UK

Dr Martin Gleave, University of British Columbia, The Vancouver Prostate Centre, Vancouver, Canada

Dr Stacy Loeb, New York University, USA

Dr Monique Roobol, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands


The median PSA for men aged 40–49 ranges from 0.5–0.7ng/ml. The 75th percentile ranges from 0.7–0.9ng/ml.

This blog was originally published on 7th August 2013 and was updated on 13th August 2013.


[1] Moyer VA, Force USPST. Screening for prostate cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2012;157:120–34.

[2] Schroder FH, Hugosson J, Roobol MJ, Tammela TL, Ciatto S, Nelen V, et al. Prostate-cancer mortality at 11 years of follow-up. N Engl J Med. 2012;366:981–90.

[3] Schroder FH, Hugosson J, Carlsson S, Tammela T, Maattanen L, Auvinen A, et al. Screening for prostate cancer decreases the risk of developing metastatic disease: findings from the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC). Eur Urol. 2012;62:745–52.

[4] Hugosson J, Carlsson S, Aus G, Bergdahl S, Khatami A, Lodding P, et al. Mortality results from the Goteborg randomised population-based prostate-cancer screening trial. Lancet Oncol. 2010;11:725–32.

[5] Bul M, Zhu X, Valdagni R, Pickles T, Kakehi Y, Rannikko A, et al. Active surveillance for low-risk prostate cancer worldwide: the PRIAS study. Eur Urol. 2013;63:597–603.

[6] Bangma CH, Bul M, van der Kwast TH, Pickles T, Korfage IJ, Hoeks CM, et al. Active surveillance for low-risk prostate cancer. Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2012.

[7] Loeb S. Use of baseline prostate-specific antigen measurements to personalize prostate cancer screening. Eur Urol. 2012;61:875–6.

[8] Vickers AJ, Ulmert D, Sjoberg DD, Bennette CJ, Bjork T, Gerdtsson A, et al. Strategy for detection of prostate cancer based on relation between prostate specific antigen at age 40-55 and long term risk of metastasis: case-control study. BMJ. 2013;346:f2023.

[9] Lilja H, Cronin AM, Dahlin A, Manjer J, Nilsson PM, Eastham JA, et al. Prediction of significant prostate cancer diagnosed 20 to 30 years later with a single measure of prostate-specific antigen at or before age 50. Cancer. 2011;117:1210–9.

[10] Evans SM, Millar JL, Davis ID, Murphy DG, Bolton DM, Giles GG, et al. Patterns of care for men diagnosed with prostate cancer in Victoria from 2008 to 2011. Med J Aust. 2013;198:540–5.

[11] Smith JA, Jr. What would you do, doctor? J Urol. 2009;182:421–2.

Surgeon Responsibility

In an outstanding editorial in the current issue of the Journal of Urology (https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.juro.2013.05.031) my friend and colleague Jay Smith (who has accompanied us when we climbed Mt Kinabalu in Borneo and on cycle challenges in Malawi and Madagascar to raise funds for The Urology Foundation) asks the important question as to who decides when a surgeon has the requisite skills and experience to subject a patient to an operative procedure? He points out that a patient entrusting his or her quality of life, and indeed very survival, to a surgeon creates an ethical bond that has few parallels in society. Certification by the Royal College of Surgeons, American Board of Urology, or equivalent bodies elsewhere, does not imply competence in the operating theatre, or for a particular surgical procedure.

The question becomes even more pertinent in an era when new technologies such as the da Vinci surgical robot are becoming increasingly available and many clinicians, like Jay and myself, have had to become proficient robotic surgeons in the midst of their careers. Having the necessary case numbers for training, as well as expert help and mentoring in the early stages, has not always been easy. Becoming safely proficient with the robot has been compared to learning to fly a helicopter, where 40 hours mentored flying time is considered a minimum requirement.

Financial incentives, for both industry and the surgeon, and motives related to pride and practise promotion, can certainly conspire to cloud a clinician’s judgement. In the end it has to be the individual surgeon’s conscience that should be the prime determinant of whether he or she is qualified to perform any given operation. The patient trusts that the surgeon is not unduly influenced to attempt to perform a procedure beyond his or her competence. That is a truly essential covenant, as no regulatory body or oversight committee can truly know how qualified an individual surgeon may be for a particular procedure.

Patient-related outcome measurements (PROMS) and the publication of the results of individual surgeons seem set to play an important role in the future.

While some of us may view this negatively, from a patient safety viewpoint is it almost certainly the way ahead.


Roger Kirby, BJUI Associate Editor, The Prostate Centre, London

Fish Oils and Prostate Cancer

If a Blog can be a call for help, then this is it! Since the recent high-profile paper in JNCI (https://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/07/09/jnci.djt174.abstract) suggesting that Omega 3 supplements increase the risk of Prostate Cancer and induce high grade prostate cancer, I am plagued by patient and colleague concerns about whether or not men should stop taking Omega 3 supplements! I know that health care providers all over the world have been similarly inundated. What are we to say to our patients?

Let us first look at the paper. The authors used data collected as part of the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) to determine whether men with high levels of plasma phospholipid fatty acids (high levels of which are present in fish oil supplements), namely long-chain ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids ([LCω-3PUFA], were at higher risk of developing prostate cancer. The case subjects in the study were 834 men diagnosed with prostate cancer, of whom 156 had high-grade cancer. The comparison cohort consisted of 1393 men selected randomly at baseline and matched to case subjects on age and race. Proportional hazards models estimated hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for associations between fatty acids and prostate cancer risk overall and by grade. The results? Compared with men in the lowest quartiles of LCω-3PUFA, men in the highest quartile had increased risks for low-grade (HR = 1.44, 95% CI = 1.08 to 1.93), high-grade (HR = 1.71, 95% CI = 1.00 to 2.94), and total prostate cancer (HR = 1.43, 95% CI = 1.09 to 1.88). These results are strong enough for the authors to conclude that there is increased prostate cancer risk among men with high blood concentrations of these plasma phospholipid fatty acids, and that “the consistency of these findings suggests that these fatty acids are involved in prostate tumorigenesis”.

Crikey! Fish oil supplements increase risk of prostate cancer! Is it really so?? Is the study methodology robust enough to change practice? Undoubtedly, there are a lot of patients taking these supplements, some prescribed by medical practitioners; even my lovely ophthalmologist wife tells me that nearly every patient with macular degeneration worldwide is on it! My knowledge of antioxidants is somewhat pedestrian and I feel like an amateur in advising whether or not men should discontinue Omega 3 supplements.

What should we tell those who ask us? All comments gratefully received.

Dr David Quinlan
Consultant Urologist, St Vincent’s Hospital,
Senior Lecturer, University College Dublin
Chairman, BJUI

Twitter: @daithiquinlan

Editorial: Impact of ERSPC study on PSA testing in the Netherlands

General practitioner (GP)’s view on screening for prostate cancer in the Netherlands: the impact of a randomized trial

I am grateful to be given the opportunity to provide an editorial comment on a so-far unique publication investigating the impact of results of the European Randomized study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC) on the attitude of Dutch GPs in requesting a serum determination of PSA in men aged >40 years. Access to data from one of the major health insurance companies and the structure and data acquisition of regional laboratories in the Netherlands provided an opportunity to carry out the project. This included the differentiation of age groups, of primary as opposed to repeat PSA testing and, in the case of the hospital database, of repeat PSA testing within 1 year, which provided the opportunity to address the primary goal of the study: the evaluation of the difference in primary PSA testing rates as well as follow-up testing before and after the 2009 publication of interim data from the ERSPC study. The fact that a Dutch translation of this publication and a recommendation by the Dutch Association of General Practitioners (Nederlands Huisartsen Genootschap, NHG) were mailed at the same time and the fact that GP guidelines had not been changed since 2005 in the Netherlands provided an important basis for the reported study.

Two different databases were used and PSA testing was evaluated 1 year before and 1 year after March 2009 (excluding the month March 2009). An overview of the data acquisition and results is given in Table 1. In brief, the data based on insurance claims show a significant decrease in PSA use before and after the 2009 publication. This decrease was less pronounced or not seen at all in men aged 70–80 or >80 years. The study selectively identified men in the ERSPC region of Rotterdam after exclusion of those assigned for re-testing in the screening arm. In line with earlier investigations, the PSA testing rate in the Rotterdam region was considerably higher then in the rest of the Netherlands. This effect was blamed on increased awareness and possibly on the motivation of men randomized into the control group of the study. The so-called ‘hospital database’ refers to a regional GP laboratory. It remains unexplained why only 2098 men of the total of 9766 men who were identified as having undergone primary PSA testing (Tables 1 and 2 in the study) were included in the analysis. These data show that there was no overall difference in testing before and after the ERSPC publication, but the proportion of re-testing decreased significantly between the two periods.

Table 1: Data acquisition and results.

Several comments can be made on this study. First, information provided on the insurance claims database allows an estimate of the proportion of men in whom PSA is evaluated (123 996/715 000 = 17.3%) and of those who undergo primary PSA testing for early diagnostic purposes (66 848/715 000 = 9.4%). The overall figure contrasts sharply with the results of a study by the Central Bureau of Statistics in the Netherlands, published in 2006. The study shows PSA use of 30–40% for the age groups 60–70 years or older.

Second, as the authors acknowledge, the differentiation between primary PSA tests for the purpose of early diagnosis and for other purposes may not be entirely reliable; however, the bias resulting from possibly incorrect assumptions is likely to be small.

Third, the sub-analysis of data coming from the Rotterdam region is likely to show the impact of greater awareness resulting from written informed consent before randomization and the effect of randomization into a control group. The data confirm an earlier evaluation of this subject (reference 7 in Van der Meer et al.) and at the same time provide a rough estimate of the level of contamination which may take place in the ERSPC study, Rotterdam region.

Fourth, it is interesting to see how age and previous PSA values influence the request for repeat PSA studies. It is counterintuitive (Table 3 in Van der Meer et al.) that even in the critical PSA range 4–10 ng/mL a significant decrease of PSA use within 1 year was seen. The multivariate analysis shows that study period before and after 2009, PSA categories and age groups are all significantly related to the decrease of PSA re-testing within 1 year.

Finally, as one of the initiators of the ERSPC study, I should like to refer to two important follow-up publications (Schröder et al.Heijnsdijk et al.) that point to the over-diagnosis and over-treatment of prostate cancer as the main reasons why the almost 30% reduction in prostate cancer mortality in screened men cannot (yet) be used for establishing population-based screening. For these reasons, the authors fully agree with the viewpoint of the Dutch GP Association and the recommendation against routine use of PSA-driven screening for prostate cancer; however, as pointed out in the last sentences of their paper instruments are now available to decrease over-diagnosis and the rate of unnecessary biopsies. In addition to that, it should be realized that men who are well informed and wish to be tested for prostate cancer cannot be refused PSA testing. To assist this process, the International Society of Urology (SIU) and the international movement ‘Movember’ have recently made available on their websites a validated decision aid for men who wish to be tested, their GPs and their treating urologists.

Fritz H. Schröder
Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Read the full article

A Letter from the President of BAUS to the Daily Telegraph

19th June 2013


Laura Donnelly’s article (Daily Telegraph Sat 15th June) contains some factual inaccuracies. She estimates that if all men referred with suspected prostate cancer received an MRI scan prior to a prostate biopsy, a quarter of them could be reassured without the need for a biopsy. This is fundamentally misleading because as yet there is insufficient evidence to support this assertion.

The article further claims that an initial MRI could halve the number of men who would be diagnosed with significant cancer incorrectly by biopsy and subsequently receive unnecessary treatment.

Similarly, this has not yet been confirmed by rigorous clinical research. Validation, via the PROMIS trial – https://www.controlled-trials.com/ISRCTN16082556 is currently being undertaken at UCLH by Professor Mark Emberton’s team. Should evidence emerge of the usefulness of MRI in identifying men with prostate cancer the process would need to be standardised by protocols endorsed by The Royal College of Radiologists and significant training would need to be undertaken by radiologists nationally.

MRI scans are expensive, as each scan costs £400, thus there are significant resource implications. This diagnostic pathway would need to be funded by Primary Care Commissioners for both an initial scan plus any repeat scans that may be required if biopsy is not deemed necessary. Regretfully currently such funding is not confirmed.

BAUS fully supports all endeavours to improve the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer for men in the UK but evidence of effectiveness needs to be in place before new modalities can be introduced nationally.


Adrian D Joyce MS FRCS(Urol)

Consultant Urological Surgeon & Hon Senior Lecturer

St James’ University Hospital

Leeds LS9 7TF


President, British Association of Urological Surgeons

[email protected]

[email protected] or [email protected]




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Editorial: Multiparametric MRI in active surveillance – time to rethink our current strategy?

Active surveillance for low-risk prostate cancer is gaining increasing acceptance. Indeed, many would argue that it is now the primary management strategy for men who have little to gain from radical therapy but who may incur some harms. However, active surveillance is far from a perfect pathway. First, many men and their physicians find it unacceptable to not treat a known cancer. Second, the burden of follow-up with clinical examinations and serum PSA testing on both men and healthcare systems is far from cost-neutral. Third, the need for repeat transrectal biopsies, which many advocate, carries harms of complications and the difficulties of inaccuracy. Fourth, there is some concern that the window of curability may be lost when men eventually go on to have radical therapy, although overall and disease-specific survival is in fact reassuringly high in the medium term.

Mullins et al. have attempted to address some of these issues by evaluating the role of multi-parametric MRI (mpMRI) in men followed using active surveillance. The results, albeit preliminary, are very encouraging. The ability of mpMRI to exclude clinically significant prostate cancer found on repeat biopsies reflects those results we have seen from other groups (J Urol 2012, BJU Int 2011). Further, they show that the presence of a lesion on mpMRI more often predicts reclassification on repeat biopsy. This has been supported by others who have demonstrated that the inclusion of mpMRI findings into a nomogram was able to predict clinically insignificant prostate cancer better than models without imaging. Mullins et al. have been appropriately guarded about their own results and point out the weaknesses of their cohort in an open manner so readers can judge the external validity of their findings; however, the significance of these results for the urological community cannot be underestimated, particularly as they point us in the direction of important research questions and clinical trials that need to be formulated to give us the answers we need to improve patient care.

There is an increasing body of evidence pointing to TRUS-guided prostate biopsy as being one of the major problems in the current prostate cancer pathway. As a test, it is both inaccurate, unreliable and has harms. It is inaccurate because about one-third of men with low-risk disease have grade or burden reclassification when a better test (template biopsy) is used. It is unreliable because the status of ‘cancer’ and ‘no cancer’ fluctuates from one biopsy to the next. It is harmful not only because it can cause complications (bleeding, sepsis and pain), but also because it detects clinically insignificant disease the treatment of which the man gains little benefit from. So, the problems with active surveillance do not stem from the fact that surveillance per se is flawed, but rather from its heavy reliance on a deeply flawed diagnostic test.

So, what are the key questions for the field of active surveillance that require a coordinated effort to deliver in a timely fashion? First, could the use of mpMRI before biopsy avoid unnecessary diagnosis of clinically insignificant prostate cancer? Second, if low grade and low-volume lesions were found on an accurate biopsy (template mapping and/or MRI-targeted), could we re-designate these lesions as something other than ‘cancer’? Combined, these two changes could in effect, make active surveillance unnecessary. Third, if mpMRI has a predilection for detecting clinically significant lesions, should the presence of a lesion on imaging lead to a man being excluded from active surveillance? Thus, should all men who are considering active surveillance undergo mpMRI and possibly template mapping biopsies? Fourth, can repeat mpMRI, as opposed to repeat transrectal biopsy, detect disease progression in men on active surveillance, and how is progression defined on imaging? Fifth, is the tissue-preserving strategy of focal therapy an alternative for men suitable for active surveillance or an alternative for those men with intermediate- and high-risk disease who stand to benefit from treatment but wish to minimise the harms of treatment?

It is clear that amongst all of these elements of research we will need to embed health economics to ensure that novel strategies are both clinically and cost-effective. Nonetheless, these are exciting times for those of us who work to innovate in clinical practice and research and improve the care of men with localised prostate cancer.


Hashim U. Ahmed
MRC Clinician Scientist and Clinical Lecturer in Urology, Division of Surgery and Interventional Science, University College London, London, UK

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Early Prostate Cancer Detection. One Canadian Urologist’s Perspective

After seventeen years as a practicing urologist and a further six in training, it amazes me that we still regard prostate cancer as a mystical science and view the issue of screening through the opaque prism of controversy. For so long it seems that the advanced stage disease that I learned about in the mid 1980s in medical school was irreversibly altered by early detection and treatment. Of course we now know that much of this early detection was simply a lead-time bias and that many men who were treated required only observation and were left with many potential compromises to quality of life. “Doctor, my cancer is gone, why am I so miserable?”

At the recent annual meeting of the American Urological Association in San Diego, new guidelines on prostate cancer screening were unveiled. In the past, routine testing at age 50 was recommended with age 40 being the threshold for those at risk. Essentially they can be summarized as:

  • Avoid screening under 40
  • Do not routinely screen between 40 and 54 for average risk men. For those at risk screening should be individualized.
  • For those between age 55 and 69 there is possibly some benefit and shared decision-making with a patient should be the rule.
  • Finally no routine screening after 70.
  • PSA should be considered every two years

The motivation for this more cautious recommendation stems for the fact that many men have indolent disease. Many of these men don’t require treatment. Treatment brings with it the potential to harm and therefore casts into doubt the value of any treatment.

The problem of course is while that may represent a possible, cost-effective strategy across the wider population, there is little doubt in my mind that this will lead to many younger and even older men falling through the cracks. It will be justified as too high a number needed to treat to make sense to find these men. Policy makers and health economists may shrug. My own experience is that we have much to learn about risk factors and that many men present seemingly without warning with significant disease.


This email from a patient illustrates the concern. Identifiers of course are removed. Both men had disease beyond the capsule of the prostate. Neither man had risk factors. Our patients are very wise and quickly become experts in the disease.

In Canada, the Canadian Urological Association has taken the view for some time that we should look at multiple factors as we “build a case” for prostate biopsy. Its own guidelines reflect this. This paper that we published speaks to the use of nomograms to make better biopsy decisions. Many calculators are available on the web.

So what is shared, informed decision-making? The assumption after the AUA meeting is that somehow patients and their primary care doctors will somehow know. What sort of conversation is happening if urologists themselves don’t seem to provide clear guidance? I suspect it will go something like “PSA doesn’t work, prostate cancer is not lethal and you will likely die from something else” Many family doctors have much of their time rightfully diverted to treating important disease entities such as hypertension, depression and diabetes. A not insignificant number of primary care doctors don’t necessarily even do a DRE anymore. If the urological community conveys the message that prostate cancer is not worth the effort it will further fall down the priority list.

In my view I am a little dismayed by the rhetoric that has started since these guidelines were presented. Much of this is well intentioned and a reaction to years of potential over-treatment. This earlier 2012 piece from the highly respected @OtisBrawley of the American Cancer Society illustrates the false promise of screening message that is being told. It will only be amplified after San Diego. In my view PSA itself is a blood test. It is harmless. It is the treatment machinery that it often initiates that potentially gives it a bite and needs careful reflection.

To many, prostate cancer is simply a benign disease in aging males along the lines of male pattern baldness. This would be a disaster in my view. We have definitely shifted the curve to the left but in addition to lowering overall mortality have greatly lessened the burden of disease complications. Men presenting with hematuria, urinary retention and renal failure has significantly diminished. It is rare that we get asked to insert nephrostomy tubes for advanced disease. This was a common clinical scenario when I was a resident in the early 1990s. I think we will see much more of that if we massively abandon screening.

I think as urologists we have a big responsibility to lead within our local communities. This comment from Dr. A Partin speaks to this very well. In the absence of the perfect pre-test conditions that predict meaningful disease my view is that we have to cast a wide net. In doing so we will uncover disease that does not need to be treated. We must then be prepared to separate diagnosis from treatment and carefully counsel our patients in a way that takes much detail and effort. It is not a five-minute discussion you can have in the middle of a busy clinic. Active Surveillance does work for low-risk disease. Our patients are sophisticated and will not blindly ask for treatment out of overwhelming anxiety. In parallel, we must continue to improve. The risk of biopsy, which has greatly increased over fifteen years, must be modified. Biopsy accuracy to find “real” disease can perhaps be improved with technology such as MRI. Techniques that lessen quality of life issues need to be modified. Robotic surgery can’t be a marketing free-for-all. In other words the onus is on us experts to get it right and do better.

Prostate cancer is a very significant disease and the source of pain and suffering for men and their families. We must continue to be vigilant of its implications, respectful of patient desires and hopeful ultimately of a cure. A benign disease it most certainly is not.

Dr. Rajiv K Singal is a Urologist at Toronto East General Hospital and Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto.

Follow him on Twitter at @DrRKSingal


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Editorial: Androgen deprivation therapy: further confirmation of known harms

Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) has been an established and effective treatment for men with asymptomatic metastatic prostate cancer for decades. Randomized trials have shown significant survival benefits when ADT is used, coupled with radiotherapy, for patients with locally advanced disease; however it is often used in patients where the benefits are less clear, such as for a rising serum PSA level after radical prostatectomy, and among patients who elect to take a more conservative approach to treatment for low-risk disease. In addition to the absence of data proving benefit, there are a number of adverse consequences attached to androgen deprivation which should be given serious consideration before beginning treatment. Most of the side effects of ADT are linked to its induced hypo-androgenic, and consequently hypo-oestrogenic, state. These include fatigue, vasomotor flushing, loss of muscle mass, weight gain, hyperlipidaemia and insulin resistance.

Osteoporosis and fracture are additional known consequences of ADT with a trend toward greater fracture risk with a higher number of doses of a GnRH agonist and/or longer duration of use. Studies indicate that men with non-metastatic prostate cancer treated with ADT experience an annual loss in bone mineral density of up to nine times that of men in the general population. The use of intermittent ADT, as opposed to continuous use, as a strategy to reduce the negative cardiometabolic and osteoporotic effects is unresolved; however, a report indicating that more recent treatment was associated with a greater risk of fracture, irrespective of cumulative dose, suggests the potential for some reversibility in bone loss post-treatment.

In the present issue of the BJU International, Lu-Yao et al. add to the literature in this area. In a study of nearly 76 000 men with prostate cancer, using data gathered as part of the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) cancer registry linked to Medicare claims data, the authors reported that patients at high risk for skeletal complications were, not surprisingly, more likely to experience a fracture associated with ADT use over a 12-year period compared with patients receiving ADT but at low risk for developing such complications. Furthermore, men who experienced a fracture were 40% more likely to die during follow-up than those without fracture. Patients were sorted into risk groups using an index which summed the number of known risk factors for incident fracture identified from Medicare claims in the 12 months before their prostate cancer diagnosis. Unfortunately, owing to the relatively small number of patients with more than one risk factor, the study was limited in its ability to establish a dose – response relationship between the baseline index and fracture risk. SEER-Medicare is an excellent resource to investigate both outcomes and treatment-related expense associated with cancer diagnoses in the USA; however, in this particular study, the reliability of behaviours included in the baseline index (i.e. smoking) is questionable as it would require both patient report of tobacco use as well as physician documentation as a billable claim. Still, one might argue that the heaviest smokers, whose behaviour would most likely be captured as part of a claim, would also be the most important group to capture in an index intended to predict fracture risk.

Interestingly, it was reported that patients at high risk for skeletal complications were significantly more likely to receive ADT than patients at low risk. This was driven in part by the use of primary ADT among elderly men (aged ≥80 years) with prostate cancer and consistent with the notion that when curative treatment is contraindicated (i.e. older patients and those with pre-existing comorbidities) treatment with ADT is more common. Lastly, these findings do not suggest any modification of fracture risk associated with ADT according to baseline risk index, which is consistent with reports of the impact of comorbid conditions and ADT on the risk of incident diabetes and cardiovascular events. This is an important observation in that it says, there is no group that is immune to the adverse effects of ADT – all men are at risk. In absolute terms, however, the men at the greatest risk of an ADT side effect (i.e. a fracture or diabetes) are the men who are at greatest risk of having that side effect even if they were not receiving ADT. The findings of Lu-Yao et al. reinforce the need for careful monitoring of all men receiving ADT. Moreover, when these data are combined with an earlier study that showed that primary ADT was associated with poorer survival than that for men with low-risk prostate cancer who were managed conservatively with observation alone, it should be a wake-up call for us to stop treating non-lethal cancer with lethal and toxic treatments, including ADT.

Jennifer L. Beebe-Dimmer* and Stephen J. Freedland‡§
*Wayne State University School of Medicine, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Detroit, MI, Durham VA Medical Center, and §Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC, USA

Read the full article

The new AUA PSA Testing Guidelines leave me scratching my head

The fact that Otis Brawley describes the new PSA testing guidelines of the American Urological Association (AUA) as “wonderful”, should immediately raise a red flag at AUA headquarters. Dr Brawley, Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, and the most vocal anti-prostate cancer screening voice in the USA over the past decade, has enthusiastically welcomed the new document and “commended” the AUA for bringing its policy closer to that of his Society. The Guidelines have also been compared to those of the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) which completely opposes PSA testing in any situation – a position which the AUA called “inappropriate and irresponsible” just a few months ago. Oh dear – where has it all gone wrong? ?

For those who haven’t yet seen the document, here are the five statements issued by the Guideline committee at the Annual Meeting of the AUA in San Diego this week along with some of my thoughts in italics:

  1. The Panel recommends against PSA screening in men under age 40 years. This appears reasonable.
  2. The Panel does not recommend routine screening in men between ages 40 to 54 years at average risk. I have some problems with this (as do many others). In addition to this statement, the AUA highlights its view that the likelihood of causing harm is high and that any benefit is marginal. It appears to have completely dismissed evidence (and its own previous view), that a baseline PSA in men in this age group is highly predictive of future prostate cancer, metastasis and death. In my view, there is considerable value in having a baseline PSA in this age group and I am disappointed that the AUA has not recognised the evidence to support this.
  3. For men ages 55 to 69 years the Panel recognizes that the decision to undergo PSA screening involves weighing the benefits of preventing prostate cancer mortality in 1 man for every 1,000 men screened over a decade against the known potential harms associated with screening and treatment. For this reason, the Panel strongly recommends shared decision-making for men age 55 to 69 years that are considering PSA screening, and proceeding based on a man’s values and preferences. I agree with the emphasis here on shared decision-making, although the concept can be somewhat nebulous and difficult to achieve in real-life. However, I think that this statement somewhat over-emphasises the harms associated with PSA testing in this group. Rather than portray the reduction in prostate cancer mortality as being very minor (1 in 1000), men should know that when compared with a man who chooses not to have PSA testing in this age group, those who do have regular PSA testing have a 44% reduction in prostate-cancer mortality over a 14 year period. Furthermore, the numbers needed to screen (293) and number needed to treat (12) to save one life stack up very well when compared with other screening modalities such as mammography (Hugosson et al). Why has the AUA instead chosen to over-emphasise the harms? This is disappointing.  
  4. To reduce the harms of screening, a routine screening interval of two years or more may be preferred over annual screening in those men who have participated in shared decision-making and decided on screening. As compared to annual screening, it is expected that screening intervals of two years preserve the majority of the benefits and reduce over-diagnosis and false positives. This appears reasonable.
  5. The Panel does not recommend routine PSA screening in men over age 70 years or any man with less than a 10 to 15 year life expectancy. Yes, but this strong advice not to offer PSA testing in men greater than 70 belies the fact that many men in this age group have a long life expectancy (eg in Australia a male who reaches 70 has a 15 year life expectancy (www.abs.gov.au), and an early diagnosis of prostate cancer may prevent their untimely death from this disease. Clearly, not all men in their 70’s are the same but following this advice to the letter could deny many men the option of avoiding death from prostate cancer in later life.

Therefore, it appears that the only circumstances under which the AUA currently recommend a PSA test be performed is for men between the age of 55 and 69 following a weekend seminar so they can be adequately informed (or thoroughly confused).

These statements have led to headlines such as these in the mass media today:

  • Urology Group Stops Recommending Routine PSA Test (USA Today)
  • Looser Guidelines Issued on Prostate Cancer Screening (New York Times)
  • Urologists No Longer Support Routine Prostate Cancer Screening (Minn Post)
  • Most men don’t need PSA test (Arizona Star)
  • AUA No Longer Recommend Routine PSA Testing For Prostate Cancer (Huff Post)

I think it is reasonable to say that this AUA document adds more confusion than clarity to the debate around prostate cancer testing. It has certainly provoked some anger among prominent members of the AUA who voiced their displeasure to the Committee during the plenary and also through social media. Dr Catalona was first to the microphone asking why AUA members were not more widely consulted prior to publication and in particular, challenging the guidance around men aged 40-54 (reported on Twitter):



Dr Stacy Loeb also voiced her concerns at various sessions during the day:


Much progress has been made in the last few decades with a 30% reduction in prostate cancer-specific mortality since the introduction of PSA testing. And while we accept that this has led to a large amount of over-treatment of less aggressive disease, it is clear that (at least outside the USA), active surveillance is being enthusiastically embraced for appropriate patients. Any return towards the pre-PSA era would likely lead to a reversal in these mortality gains and we would again see many more men presenting to our rooms with incurable disease.

As Dr Smith editorialized in the Journal of Urology following the publication of the ERSPC and PLCO trials in 2009, “Treatment or non-treatment decisions can be made once a cancer is found, but not knowing about it in the first place surely burns bridges”. It is clear that many urologists consider these new AUA PSA Guidelines to be in danger of burning these bridges. However, rather than burn bridges, it is likely that urologists and others will ignore these guidelines and continue to counsel men in a more balanced fashion about the pros and cons of PSA testing. The AUA will then need to consider whether ignored guidelines are failed guidelines.


Prof Tony Costello is a Director and Professor of Urology at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne, Australia.

Twitter: @proftcostello


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