Duplication forces retraction of paper by group whose work is used to justify prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing
A dozen years might seem like a publishing eternity, but the European Journal of Cancer has decided to purge a duplicate paper from 2000. The article, on the utility of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test for detecting prostate cancer, comes from a group whose work in this area has been widely cited as evidence for the benefits of the highly controversial screening tool.
“Prostate cancer screening in the Tyrol, Austria: experience and results,” by a group of Austrian researchers, has a rather complicated past. It’s been cited 42 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Here’s the notice, which appeared in a recent issue of the journal:
This paper has been retracted at the request of the Editors of the European Journal of Cancer and the authors of the paper.
The paper was published as part of a special issue of the European Journal of Cancer which summarized the proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Tumour Genetics and Prevention, which took place from 17th to 19th February 2000 in St. Gallen, Switzerland. The paper describes the presentation of the authors at the conference. It has become necessary to retract the paper from the European Journal of Cancer because it is also a duplicate of a paper published in the journal European Urology in 1999 (W. Horninger, A. Reissigl, H. Rogatsch, H. Volgger, M. Studen, H. Klocker, G. Bartsch, Prostate cancer screening in the Tyrol, Austria: experience and results. Eur. Urol., 35 (1999) 523–538, doi:10.1159/000019893.
According to the study:
These data suggest that PSA-based screening with low PSA cut-off values increase the detection rate of clinically significant, organ confined and potentially curable prostate cancer. Per cent free PSA and PSA transition zone density provide an additional diagnostic benefit over total PSA.
That might not be the only time this work has shown up in the literature, either. We found a 1997 paper in the journal Cancer by the same group of authors with an awfully similar title, “Prostate carcinoma screening in the county of Tyrol, Austria, Experience and Results.” And as the introductory text states, the work was “Presented at the American Cancer Society Workshop: Review of Current Data Impacting Early Detection Guidelines for Prostate Cancer, Phoenix, Arizona, March 10-11, 1997.”
These data suggest that PSA-based screening increases the detection rate of clinically significant and organ-confined tumors. Percent free PSA and PSA transitional zone density provide an additional diagnostic benefit over total PSA.
Tyrol is seen by some as the prostate cancer “Framingham,” along with its mini-me, the Puget Sound observational studies. [Ed: The NIH-funded Framingham study began in 1948 and has informed a good deal of cardiovascular health care.] I would guess that most don’t think much about Tyrol these days given the noise made by more current studies. So for this reason alone, I’d guess a retraction in a journal few Americans read will have negligible effect on behavior.
Behavior will also be minimally changed, I believe, because behavior is rarely explained by rational analysis and/or consumption of truth. More to the point, it hinges on packaging, marketing, hype, commercial agenda, politics … Otherwise, how to explain the popularity of selenium, pomegranates, proton beam therapy, robots, bottled water?