How Much Do Average People Know About the Risks of Screening?


Despite an “epidemic” of overdiagnosis and “expanding disease definitions that medicalize more people,” most average Australians have no idea that overdiagnosis is a problem in medicine or psychiatry, according to a study in PLOS One.

The team of Australian researchers surveyed 500 randomly selected Australians in January of 2014.

“Our community survey found a large majority of adults reporting they had not been informed about the risk of overdiagnosis attached to screening tests,” the authors wrote. In addition, a “large majority” said they believed that, along with screening benefits, “people should be informed of the risk of overdiagnosis.”

“Despite strong evidence overdiagnosis is a significant risk of prostate cancer screening, 81% of men who reported being screened said they had not been told,” the researchers stated. “(A)mong women who reported having breast cancer screening, where overdiagnosis is also now an established risk, 87% said they hadn’t been informed.”

“Over two-thirds of Australians surveyed felt it was completely or mostly inappropriate for doctors with financial ties to pharmaceutical companies to serve on panels which set disease definitions,” the authors added.

Moynihan, Ray, Brooke Nickel, Jolyn Hersch, Elaine Beller, Jenny Doust, Shane Compton, Alexandra Barratt, Lisa Bero, and Kirsten McCaffery. “Public Opinions about Overdiagnosis: A National Community Survey.” PLoS ONE 10, no. 5 (May 20, 2015): e0125165. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0125165. (Full text)


  1. It can actually cause health problems due to stress and unnecessary medical procedures like mammography, which can induce cancer and has very little diagnostic value in a lot of women. There are sensible way to screen for certain diseases but what is going on now is disease-mongering.

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