Public Health Research & Practice – Cancer screening: concerns, controversy and evidence

Population-based cancer screening, and the concerns, controversy and evidence around its benefits and potential harms, is under the spotlight in the latest issue of Public Health Research & Practice (PHRP). The issue includes a guide to assessing the effectiveness of screening programs and a historical review of Australia's three population screening programs – for cervical, bowel and breast cancer.

The co-Guest Editors for Issue 3 (2017) are Associate Professor Stacy Carter, Deputy Director of the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine at the University of Sydney and Sarah McGill, Director of Cancer Screening and Prevention at the Cancer Institute NSW.

Themed articles include an 'In discussion' debate about PSA testing for men at average risk of prostate cancer; a discussion of potential harms caused by overdiagnosis in some forms of cancer screening; and an 'In practice' article on improving communication and shared decision making in cancer screening.

In an article that describes how to assess the efficacy of screening programs, the authors argue that an evidence based approach is essential when evaluating the benefits and harms of cancer screening, to minimise misleading biases. The authors say randomised trials are the most effective way to control for lead-time, length-time, overdiagnosis and volunteer biases.

Other papers in this issue explore how the virtual reality game Pokémon Go should inspire the public health sector; the need for integration of mental health care in Australia; the association between clinical consultations and discontinuation of hormone therapy in women with breast cancer; and a world-first public health advocacy initiative to encourage regulation of alcohol advertising.

PHRP is Australia’s first online-only open access peer-reviewed public health journal, published by the Sax Institute with a strong focus on the connection between research, policy and practice.

Researchers are welcome to submit manuscripts and encourage their colleagues to submit. You can also subscribe to receive quarterly e-alerts when the journal is published, make suggestions about themes or topics for future issues, and follow us on Twitter @phrpjournal