CAMDEN BY MICHAEL ROIZEN, M.D., AND MEHMET OZ, M.D.
Q: I’m 55 and I had my first PSA test. My doc said it was a bit high, so he’s sending me to a specialist. Don’t PSA tests cause a lot of overdiagnosis of prostate cancer, which leads to unneeded surgery? -- Greg H., Duluth, Minnesota
A: There’s been a lot of discussion lately about when, or even if, men should have a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. Now there’s a lot more we can do to accurately diagnose and appropriately treat prostate cancer than we could in the past, when unnecessary and potentially life-altering surgeries (incontinence and impotence were risks) were all too common. For example, you can have a high PSA test score -- above 3 nanograms per milliliter -- and not have prostate cancer. Or you can have a lower PSA test score and have cancer. There is no one-size-fits-all diagnosis.
That’s why your next step, Greg, is to have a digital rectal exam if you haven’t had one, and possibly an MRI. If the doc sees something, then you may get a biopsy so you can determine your Gleason score -- a grading system that determines the aggressiveness of prostate cancer. Or you may be advised to actively wait and watch.
A recently published trial of 20,000 men used a screening program that established a baseline PSA reading at age 50 and then monitored each guy every two years for more than 20 years. The Swedish research team reports the result was a 30 percent reduction in prostate cancer deaths!
Their approach was effective, they say, because it allowed researchers to identify suspicious rises in PSA levels. The researchers then recommended biopsies if your PSA is greater than 3 ng/ml, and possible treatment if your Gleason score is greater than 7.
Guys, talk to your docs about adopting this controlled monitoring of your PSA over time, so you can follow up with effective, safe treatment as soon as there is an indication of a potential problem.
Q: I heard that carrageenan, a food additive used to thicken foods like yogurt, nondairy milks and ice cream, doesn’t have any nutritional value and may be harmful. Why is it allowed into foods? -- Frank F., Garden City, New York
A: Interestingly, carrageenan is made from Irish moss and other red seaweeds, and was used in cooking and medicines in Ireland long before it was imported to the coastal areas of New England. Today, however, it’s a highly processed food additive with no medicinal or nutritional value. It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration and used as an emulsifier in foods like yogurt and ice cream, as well as in nut milks (almond and coconut), rice milk, soy milk, processed deli meats, vegan cheeses and nondairy desserts.
The National Organic Standards board removed carrageenan from its approved ingredients list in 2016, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture didn’t pay attention to their own advisers’ 10-to-3 vote recommending that it be banned from organic foods. They also didn’t pay attention to the organic purists at The Cornucopia Institute who published the report, “Carrageenan: How a “Natural” Food Additive is Making Us Sick.”
Much of the science behind the condemnation of the use of carrageenan is based on the work of Dr. Joanne Tobacman, who published multiple peer-reviewed studies (following up on studies from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s that linked food-grade carrageenan to higher rates of digestive diseases in lab animals). Her research found that exposure to carrageenan causes harmful inflammation throughout your body, not just your gut, and she lobbied for years to have it banned. We know that if inflammation becomes chronic it can lead to arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, glucose intolerance, colon cancer, heart disease and even Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
So read your labels! Seaweeds like nori are packed with nutrients, but avoid carrageenan since it has no nutritional value and may contribute to the assault on your health from processed and additive-laced foods.
(Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is chief wellness officer and chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily(at sign)sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.)