The PSA for prostate cancer: does it detect cancer and save lives?

Let’s talk about prostate cancer. American men have a 16% chance of being diagnosed with it, though they have only a 3% chance of dying from it. Most prostate cancers grow very slowly, which means that you’re more likely to die WITH it than FROM it, according to Dr. David G. Williams.

The New York Times and the Washington Post have both reported that the PSA test is far from a definitive test for prostate cancer—in fact, it’s pretty useless. As I speak to prostate cancer patients, I am always struck by their fear of, and careful documentation of, widely swinging PSA numbers. And that’s how prostate cancer is diagnosed. We spend $3 billion annually testing PSA levels in men.

The PSA test measures how much prostate antigen a man has in his blood, which simply indicates inflammation level. However, any number of other causes, such as benign swelling (almost all men over 50 develop “benign prostatic hyperplasia”), Ibuprofen and other drugs, or infections, can elevate the PSA even though it is unrelated to cancer. But very few doctors point this out to patients, nor do most seem to be aware of the controversy.

Dr. Thomas Stamey of Stanford University is one of the original PSA promoters. In 2004 he stated, “PSA no longer has a relationship to prostate cancer. The PSA test is not relevant any more. You  might as well biopsy a man because he has blue eyes.” (Feel free to google Stamey and his comments and read many experts quoting him and discussing the PSA controversy.)

Stamey told Medscape Today’s Laurie Barclay, M.D.:  “About 20 years ago…we reported…there was a reasonable relationship between the blood PSA and the size of the…cancer. In fact, that relationship was approximately 50%, so it wasn’t even perfect 20 years ago when we first started using PSA to diagnose prostate cancer…in the last five years it’s now only 2%, so that’s negligible. That allows me to say that PSA today in the United States no longer has any relationship to the cancer except for 2% of men.” He states that a new cancer marker is needed.

The PSA test has been so ineffective in detecting prostate cancer, its inventor, Richard Ablin, has been speaking out against his own discovery for many years. Ablin is quoted in a March 2010 edition of The New York Times saying, “The [PSA] test is hardly more effective than a coin toss. As I’ve been trying to make clear for many years now, PSA testing can’t detect prostate cancer….The test’s popularity has led to a hugely expensive public health disaster.”

Biopsy or removal of the prostate not only causes incontinence and impotence, but also causes a dormant cancer to quickly spread.  I wonder how many men have undergone surgery and radiation for no better reason than a PSA score, even though IF they even had a cancer cluster in their prostate, they may have had no symptoms for decades.

Dr. David G. Williams, whose newsletter “Alternatives” I subscribed to for many years, feels that the PSA test is a travesty akin to mammograms for women, since it results in many “false positives” and may contribute to causing cancer rather than diagnosing it.

I have been meaning to write about this subject for quite some time. I do so now because I made a Canadian friend at Hippocrates, a 64-y.o. horse rancher named Craig, who was there to deal with his prostate cancer. The good news includes that there’s no chemotherapy prescribed for prostate cancer, so he wasn’t recovering from that nightmare as many are. Plus Craig has given up his beer and animal-flesh diet, in favor of green juices, sprouts, and plants. He has lost over 30 lbs. and feels great.

But I told Craig that there’s a lot of underreported controversy about the PSA that he puts so much stock in. He had no idea. This post is dedicated to him and I’ll send him the link.

Since these experts have stated in the New York Times and Washington Post that research shows little or no correlation between PSA and prostate cancer, just last month both papers also reported that new research shows PSA screening has not saved lives.

In 2009, The New England Journal of Medicine published findings from two studies that screening didn’t reduce the death rate in the U.S. In Europe, it was slightly reduced, but 48 men would need to be treated to save one life. That means 47 men become incontinent, impotent, or both, to save one.

Foods, herbs, and practices to decrease inflammation in the prostate and avoid cancer in that area include these ideas:

Saw palmetto, turmeric, lycopene-rich foods (watermelon, tomatoes, etc.), walnuts and pumpkin seeds, hot peppers, and lots of water. Be physically active, walk, rebound daily to move muscles and organs in the pelvic area and increase circulation. “Bicycle” in the air on your back.

And for the record, I do think a low PSA is a good thing. Inflammation is at the root of all disease. One possible corollary, however, should not be accepted: that a high PSA indicates cancer.

Reversing Crohn’s disease

I saw this post from Melanie yesterday, in response to an old blog of mine. I thought it warranted front-and-center attention. It’s especially on my mind after a convo after my Lehi, UT class last night with a mother of a young (20-ish) Crohn’s patient who eats no fiber.

That’s the problem with Crohn’s patients, is that high-fiber foods are what they desperately need, and also what irritates their inflamed gut tissues. I’ve reconsidered my statement that Crohn’s is difficult to turn around after talking to a few docs in recent months who say with proper treatment, Crohn’s is one of the easier conditions to treat. I am not a practitioner, and I recommend sufferers get competent, EXPERIENCED, holistic help—such as from Dr. Gaetano Morello in Vancouver, who works with people remotely via phone.

Here’s what Melanie had to say, which folks with this and other inflammatory gut diseases may find encouraging:

“I just wanted to comment on your comment about Crohn’s disease being difficult to reverse with diet. I know in some severe cases, it might be, but I wanted to give a story of success and maybe hope for some people. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in July of last year. The doctor wrote me a prescription for a steroid and told me to take it INDEFINITELY! I handed her back the prescription, and said “No, this is not going to be my life. I will not take steroids!”

And after two days of intense research and crying, I threw myself head first into a raw, organic, grain-free vegan diet. If it didn’t fall into that category, it didn’t go into my mouth. I lost about 35 lbs. (which I needed to) and within just 2 weeks I was able to go off of both of the prescription meds I was on for the reactive arthritis caused by the inflammation in my body due to the Crohn’s.

Within about a month, all of my Crohn’s symptoms (intestinal cramping, anal fissures, cracked skin on my hands, too frequent bowel movements, hair falling out) were either much lessened or GONE! When I went back for a check-up in October (I had a bet with my doctor – if I wasn’t better by then, steroids it was!), my small bowel series of xrays indicated that I had NO bowel strictures, no inflammation, no irregular fold patterns, no wall thickening!

The doctor said it looks like I’d never had Crohn’s in the first place and that I was in the clear! I will admit that after the ‘all clear’ I thought I could add some things back into my diet – cheese, some fish, rice – and I started getting pain in my joints again. So, now that I eat about 90-95% raw, I am maintaining my good health, and my husband and I are currently trying for baby #2 – something I didn’t think I’d ever be able to have with Crohn’s!”

Thank you for your story, Melanie. Of course, Jordin Rubens (The Maker’s Diet) is a fantastic example of a man who was nearly dead of Crohn’s at 19, and now 20 years later is extremely healthy simple because he changed his diet. I know soil organisms and probiotics had a HUGE place in his healing. Those topics are covered in Step 8 of my 12 Steps to Whole Foods.

How to skin brush


Have you always wanted to know how, exactly, you’re supposed to be skin brushing?  Brandi at Oasis knows the lymphatic system and explains that all to us. She’s a former E.R. nurse who now does lymphatic drainage therapy fulltime. Dr. Lodi raves about the benefits he sees from this.

Check out Brandi’s story about healing her devastating lupus condition with an 80% or better raw vegan diet, too!

Also watch our Skin Brushing 101 – full body video

Mary kicks white carbs to the curb!

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl:

I sent you my story of healing over the past six years. I hope you received it. [From Robyn: I didn’t. ??]

Just want to add that if I eat no “white” nor alcohol, I have no inflammation, i.e., pain, in my body. I have fibromyalgia and arthritis, and went from being bed-ridden to EVERYONE thinking I am fifty, when I am now 71.

What I am now doing for over 3 years (smoothie every AM and vegetables, fruits and whole grains) is reversing age. My hair is losing the gray, I feel 19 and have so much to share.

I want a mic and a stage!! No one can “get it” unless they do it. I have gone back into pain and exhaustion when I poisoned my body with some simple carbohydrates. These tests prove that my plan works! I hope you got my story. Just ask and I will email it to you again. Yeast is the result of the sugar from simple carbohydrates, and the yeast inflames the weaker parts of our bodies and is also addictive. Weight is a sub-issue. Health is the issue!

[Mary, please re-send your story!]

extra ingredients for green smoothies [part 1 of 7]

Many health food nuts like me have a mental list of ingredients they know are nutritional powerhouses, and we want to get them in our diet but often fail to do so, because we don’t know how or don’t fit it into the day’s menu. Green smoothies are the perfect way to do that–just toss some stuff in! Be adventurous. Use those exotic, high-impact nutrition items if you can afford them. If not, please don’t worry about it–you’re getting tons of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes from the simple greens and fruit combinations. Smoothies don’t have to contain expensive, exotic ingredients. But not all of the “other ingredients” discussed in this section are expensive.

Kelp and dulse

If you don’t mind the seaweedy taste of sea vegetables like kelp and dulse, use those high-impact foods in your blender. Just a little bit is enough, and they are more thyroid nourishing than any other food. So if you are hypothyroid (as about 25 percent of women are in America, many of them undiagnosed), consider getting one or both of these foods in your daily diet. Green smoothies are an easy way to do that. Those who suffer with low energy and slow metabolism often have low thyroid problems. (And diagnosing it can be difficult, involving full-panel blood testing done by a hormone clinic, examining the interplay of several different variables.) Taking a thyroid hormone causes disease risk and can burn out the thyroid even more over time, especially the synthetic drugs such as Synthroid and Cytomel. Sea vegetables nourish and support the thyroid rather than sort of jab and poke it to perform.

Flax oil

If you don’t know how to get flax oil in your diet, minerals from greens are absorbed better when eaten with some fats, so putting flax oil in your green smoothie is a great idea. You’ll never even notice it, used in this form. A tablespoon daily is a good dosage for an adult to avoid inflammatory ailments, and protect healthy cell membranes needed to keep toxic elements out but allow nutrients in. Flax oil has wide-ranging benefits uncovered in research in the past decade involving the immune, circulatory, reproductive, cardiovascular, and nervous system. It’s rich in essential fatty acids, including the rather rare omega-6 and omega-9 nutrients that your body cannot manufacture itself and must receive from outside sources.

Using flax oil, you can avoid taking fish oil with all its attendant risks (fish being tainted with mercury and other pollutants). Flax has more lignans by 80 times than the next-highest food, which cut your risk of breast and colon cancers dramatically. Research connects it to reduction of PMS symptoms, improvement in multiple sclerosis treatment, reduction in allergies and arthritis and diabetes, as well as eczema, asthsma, and loss of eyesight. It increases fat burning and allows you to recover from sprains and muscle fatigue more quickly.

You should never heat flax oil, which damages its nutritional properties, and you must purchase it refrigerated and use it very fresh, as it becomes rancid in only a month or two. This is one of the more expensive ingredients you can add to smoothies. If you prefer, you can grind a small amount of flaxseed instead. This is inexpensive, but the whole seed is mucilaginous, thereby making your smoothie thicker and bulkier, so if you add ground flaxseed instead of oil, you may want to add more water to compensate. Use freshly ground flaxseed, as it oxidizes and becomes rancid quickly once ground. You can use your BlendTec Total Blender, or a small $10 electric coffee grinder from any store like Target or Walmart.

If you add interesting things to your GS, let us know! I’ll be posting more of my additions over the next 6 days.