[back] Cholesterol Hoax



Skip These Tests?

Tuesday, November 30, 2004; Page HE02

Nortin Hadler says he would sue any doctor who tried to test his
cholesterol. Likewise, his bone density, prostate levels, colon cells,
etc. The Harvard-trained doc, now in his sixties and a rheumatologist
and professor of medicine and microbiology/immunology at the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says you, too, should avoid these
routine tests, as well as most angioplasties, bypass surgeries and
routine mammograms. That's because -- contrary to what the medical
establishment tells you -- the tests and procedures don't extend most
lives, he says; they just convince healthy people they're sick. We spoke
with him recently about this iconoclastic thesis that's at the heart of
his new book, "The Last Well Person: How to Stay Well Despite the
Health-Care System" (McGill-Queen's University Press, $29.95).

But wait a minute. Hasn't it been proven that some routine screenings,
like PSA tests for prostate cancer, save lives?

There is no question in my mind that if you remove all the prostates you
are going to make a major difference in death by prostate cancer. But
you are not going to make a major difference in death or the timing of
your death. You're going to die about the same time of something else
and there's a good chance that you're going to spend your
post-radical-prostatectomy time coping with impotence and incontinence.
The same [general principle] pertains to breast cancer, colon cancer and
most heart disease.

. . . Most [of the breast cancer] that you find are local problems and
you can find them, however, when it becomes a lump. . . . There are
tragedies. I'm not willing to let you say [I'm] a callous fellow who is
willing to accept a few deaths. That's terrible. Right now it looks like
this approach is not doing what we are told it should be doing.

So if these screenings and procedures don't prolong our lives, what does?

About 85 percent of your mortal hazard lives in two questions: Are you
comfortable in your socioeconomic status? And do you like your job? If
you say no to either or both of those, that represents some of the most
powerful mortal hazards that we are able to document.

Who's to blame for healthy people's preoccupation with illness?

I think a tremendous percentage of the health care delivery system is
influenced by the profit structure of Big Pharma . . . the insurance
industry and the . . . major medical centers, particularly the academic
health centers. It is dripping with conflicts of interest.

So how do you personally deal with all this?

I will die, hopefully on my 85th birthday, and I don't really care which
of the diseases that I'm bearing on my 85th birthday does me in. I only
care that I made it to my 85th birthday -- plus or minus something --
and on that birthday I can look back and smile.

-- Elizabeth Agnvall