According to Giuliani, 18 percent of American men diagnosed with prostate cancer will die from the disease, while 56 percent of British men will. And Rudy blames that on the rationing inherent in the British model of health care. Those numbers are accurate. They come from official data released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, by way of a study by the liberal Commonwealth Fund, not — as critics darkly hint — from a right‐wing think tank (although Rudy apparently saw them in an article by Manhattan Institute scholar David Gratzer).
It is fair to note, however, that the numbers are somewhat dated. More recent information shows an improved British performance. The five‐year survival rate for prostate cancer in the U.K. is 74 percent. Of course, it is 98 percent in the U.S.
Giuliani’s critics have a better argument when they point out that more men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the U.S. We don’t really know whether that is because we actually have more prostate cancer (poor dietary habits may play a role) or because our advanced testing and screening procedures uncover small cancers that might otherwise go undiscovered. In this regard, prostate cancer might not have been the best example for Rudy to use. Because it’s a very slow‐growing cancer and occurs more frequently in older patients, it’s possible that some of those diagnosed in the U.S. would not have died from the disease even if they weren’t treated. This “survivor‐time” bias could skew the statistics.
Survivor time bias is not as big an issue for cancers that have faster metastasizing times or strike younger patients. But the U.S. advantage holds for other cancers, too, including breast cancer, colon cancer, and thyroid cancer. According to a study published this year in the British medical journal The Lancet, for survival rates in all types of cancers, the U.S. ranks number one among industrialized nations: 62.9 percent of women with cancer survive for five years, and 66.3 percent of men. Britain ranked 16th for women (52.7 percent for five years) and 15th for men (just 44.8 percent).