Consumer Reports lists cancer tests most people should avoid

(CBS News) For the first time, Consumer Reports has rated 11 different cancer screening tests, taken by millions of patients every year.

The magazine found most of these tests should be avoided.

Read the Consumer Reports findings here.

Dr. John Santa, who runs the Health Ratings Unit at Consumer Reports, said, "There's a lot of promotion going on out there and we're surprised that a lot of it promoted screening tests that aren't very good while we're not getting the best screening tests done for cancer."

The screening tests you should get, according to Consumer Reports, are for colon cancer, mammography for breast cancer for women 50 to 65, and pap smears for cervical cancer for women 21 to 65.

He said, "They're all reasonable."

Asked what tests you shouldn't get, Santa said, "We looked at eight cancer screening tests that most of us don't need."

Some of the tests listed as inadvisable include ovarian, pancreatic, testicular, lung, prostate, bladder, oral, and skin.

The two most worthy of discussion are screening tests for prostate cancer and ovarian cancer. In both cases, those tests are very unlikely to result in saving your life, but can definitely result in significant biopsies, surgeries that can hurt you."

Asked what people should do concerning preventative care, Santa said, "We're supposed to get current. The modern thinking about cancer is much more nuanced. We need to get away from the cookbook that all prevention is good for you, that all preventive tests are good for you. They're not. You need to sit down with somebody who knows what they're talking about, your doctor usually, and figure out what are the best screening tests for you. Not get it out of a mobile van."

He said, for most people, the risks don't outweigh the benefits of the tests Consumer Reports advises against. He said, "The tests that we don't think people should be getting, for most people, the benefits don't outweigh the risks. The risks are more substantial than people think of a preventive screening test."

But isn't it important to find out if you have cancer early? "It turns out it's more complicated even there," Santa said. "We now know that there's early cancers that our own immune systems look like they can take care of, but our tests can now detect, so we end up intervening and we end up exposing people to risks who have cancers that aren't going to change our lives."

For more with Santa, watch his full "CTM" appearance in the video above.

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