Statement by The Commonwealth Fund on Use of Prostate Cancer Statistics

October 30, 2007

Contact(s):

Mary Mahon
Public Information Officer
TEL 212-606-3853, cell phone 917-225-2314, mm@cmwf.org

Bethanne Fox
bf@cmwf.org, 301-567-6359


The Summer 2007 issue of City Journal included an article authored by David Gratzer, M.D., that says the U.S. prostate cancer survival rate is 81.2 percent and the U.K. survival rate is 44.3 percent. According to abcnews.com, Gratzer has cited a seven-year-old Commonwealth Fund report as his source for the statistics. In fact, the five-year survival data cited in the City Journal article do not come from The Commonwealth Fund report, and cannot be calculated from that report. What the report, Multinational Comparisons of Health Systems Data, 2000 by Gerard F. Anderson and Peter S. Hussey of Johns Hopkins University, includes are data on prostate cancer incidence and mortality rates in the two countries.

Specifically, The Commonwealth Fund report features a chart showing that, in 1997, the incidence of prostate cancer in the U.S. was 136 per 100,000 males and the mortality rate (death rate) was 26 per 100,000 males. By comparison, in the U.K. the prostate cancer incidence was 49 per 100,000 and the death rate was 28 deaths per 100,000. (The prostate cancer incidence rate—which is the number of men diagnosed with the disease in a given year—in the U.S. is thought to be higher because prostate cancer screening is much more common in this country.)

The incidence rates simply report the number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer in a given year. Prostate cancer mortality rates report the number of men who died of the disease in a given year. Neither speaks to length of survival, and that figure can not be calculated using the others.

The incorrect survival statistics in the City Journal article have since been used in speeches and a radio ad by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The Commonwealth Fund believes it is important that all presidential candidates have accurate and reliable information.

The Commonwealth Fund is an independent foundation working toward health policy reform and a high performance health system.