Brett Montgomery, University of Western Australia

Three prime ministers and nearly three years ago, “first bloke” Tim Mathieson caused a brouhaha with his advice on prostate cancer screening:

We can get a blood test for it, but the digital examination is the only true way to get a correct reading on your prostate, so make sure you go and do that, and perhaps look for a small Asian female doctor is probably the best way.

It was the “small Asian female” part of this statement that attracted criticism, but what of the rest of his advice?

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It correctly identifies the two common ways GPs screen for prostate cancer: a blood test (for a protein called prostate-specific antigen, or PSA) and the digital rectal examination, in which a doctor feels the prostate gland by inserting a gloved finger (“digit”) into a man’s rectum.

But rectal examination is less accurate than the PSA blood test, missing more cancer and causing more false alarm. Read more …