Fact-checking the Trump – Oz health sitdown

“Fact-checking the Trump – Oz health sitdown” by Kevin Lomangino, Health News Review.

Unsubstantiated health information in any medium does a disservice to public health communication in general. This is why we support the critical evaluations from the folks at Health News Review (HNR), which evaluates health news using systematic criteria to assess the extent to which a news story uses adequately addresses evidence. We agree that the latest factoids from Donald Trump do more harm than good.

From the standpoint of improving communication about health care interventions (our primary mission at HealthNewsReview.org), a few issues immediately stood out for me:

  • Oz commented that Trump’s PSA, at 0.15, was “low,” to which Trump replied: “My PSA has been very good. So many of my friends have had problems where they’re going to get radiation.” This exchange makes it sound like the test is routine and that having a high PSA is indicative of prostate cancer. That’s unfortunate. As we pointed out just yesterday, all major professional groups recommend against routine PSA testing because its potential harms — in the form of false positive results and unnecessary treatment of slow-growing tumors that may never cause a problem during the patient’s lifetime — outweigh the benefits. The test is also not recommended for those over age 69 and Mr. Trump is 70.
  • Trump’s coronary artery calcification score, reported to be “98,” was suggested to be an indication of the candidate’s excellent heart health. But again, there’s plenty of debate as to the value of this test, which isn’t endorsed by guidelines from U.S Preventive Services Task Force because there’s not enough evidence to accurately assess the risk-benefit balance of administering the test. The test involves potentially carcinogenic radiation exposure, and it’s not clear that the information from the test leads to an improvement in patient outcomes — issues we touched on in this story review.

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