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General Health Checkups and Medical Screening Tests—Do You Really Need Them?

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  • Excessive or unnecessary screening can lead to a cascade of obligatory follow-up costs down the line, along with potentially invasive treatments you didn’t really need, and the psychological trauma that goes along with it
  • Two common screening tests that can potentially do more harm than good are annual mammograms for women, and the annual PSA test for men. Studies have shown that these tests have no impact on mortality rates, and far more people are harmed from unnecessary treatment due to these tests than are saved as a result of early diagnosis
  • A recent meta-analysis study found that general health checks did not reduce morbidity or mortality, neither overall nor for cardiovascular or cancer causes, although the number of new diagnoses was increased
  • Another study warns against placing too much faith in medical studies showing very large effects of medical treatment (benefits or harms). The massive analysis tracked the fate of thousands of studies, from the effects demonstrated in the initial study, compared to the effects elucidated in subsequent trials. In 90 percent of cases where “very large” effects were initially reported, such effects shrank or vanished altogether as subsequent studies were done to confirm the results

By Dr. Mercola

Alan Cassels, a drug policy researcher at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, has written several books about the drug industry. His latest work is called Seeking Sickness: Medical Screening and the Misguided Hunt for Disease.

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