Overdiagnosis a Threat to Health
Overdiagnosis, treating people at-risk of disease as if they had the disease is a significant threat to human health, an Australian researcher says.
Ray Moynihan, senior research fellow at Bond University in Australia, said overdiagnosis poses a significant threat to human health by labelling healthy people as sick and wasting resources on unnecessary care.
In an article in the British Medical Journal, Moynihan, Jenny Doust also of Bond University and David Henry of the Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Canada wrote many factors are driving overdiagnosis, including commercial and professional vested interests, legal incentives and cultural issues.
Growing scientific evidence suggests many are overdiagnosed for many conditions including asthma, high blood pressure, breast, prostate, thyroid and kidney cancers.
For example, a recent systematic review published in the British Medical Journal suggested that up to 1-in-3 breast cancers detected via screening may be overdiagnosed -- women without symptoms are diagnosed and then treated for a disease that won't actually cause them any symptoms. At the same time, the women might suffer from complications and illness from the treatment.
Moynihan argued the main problem of overdiagnosis lies in a strong cultural belief in early detection, fed by deep faith in medical technology.
"Increasingly we've come to regard simply being 'at risk' of future disease as being a disease in its own right," Moynihan said in a statement.