The article says that Rudy Giuliani cited data comparing prostate cancer statistics from Britain versus those from the United States. The report said that in Britain, 44% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer were alive 5 years, and that in the US, about 81% of these men were alive 5 years later. He then concluded that the 5 year survival rate for prostate cancer in the US was about twice as high as that in England.
It sounds reasonable, logical, but it is patently wrong. The risk of death from prostate cancer is about the same in both countries. This is the seductive danger of statistics. There is no context given for these figures.
The truth of the matter is that in the US, most prostate cancer screening is done by the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test. In England, most prostate cancer is found by observing symptoms. This is important because the US has a higher proportion of prostate cancer diagnoses resulting from the PSA test that often identifies small tumors that grow very slowly, so slowly that most men with them die from other causes. But English doctors rely more on symptoms, and miss these slow progressing cancers.
The short version is that if you include the nonprogressive cancer patients in the figures (as in the US), it makes it appear that there are more men surviving prostate cancer than there are in England. But if you remove the nonprogressive cancer patients from the figures, the 5 year survival rates are virtually identical. This is evidenced by looking at the prostate cancer deaths per 100,000 men. In a 2001 study, there were 26 prostate cancer deaths per 100,000 men in the US, and 27 per 100,000 in England.
This is just one occurrence of how misleading cancer survival statistics can be. Statistics is actually an independent discipline due to its complexity. It is not as basic as simple numbers and arithmetic. It is important for people to delve more deeply into figures and statistics that are given by scientists. It can be very misleading to merely accept statistics as they appear. Most people do not have the time or inclination to investigate given statistics beyond the initial impression given. But this can have dire consequences for cancer patients.
You owe it to yourself to find out the truth about cancer treatments, survival rates, and the true effectiveness of treatment methods. No one is totally objective. This is the reason for the Scientific Method. Science is not about someone with a lab coat or a Ph.D. or other advanced degree, or about an institution with a lot of prestige. It is about a rigorous method to minimize bias in experimental observations. It came about because everyone has biases. They should be identified and minimized. But those who have ulterior motives will seek to hide their biases, or fail to acknowledge them. I have seen both of these behaviors in institutional medicine and in the cancer industry.