MEDICINE: Screening for diseases can damage your health

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The Independent Online
Screening for diseases could seriously damage your health, according to the British Medical Journal. Those who receive positive results may suffer needlessly high levels of anxiety, while those who screen negatively erroneously believe they can maintain their unhealthy lifestyles, it warned.

People found in workplace screening programmes to have high blood pressure took more time off sick, had increased anxiety and and saw themselves as less healthy, regardless of whether their hypertension warranted treatment.

In cholesterol screening, several studies have shown a reduction in deaths from heart diseases but a small increase in total mortality. This, it is suggested, is because men who know they are more at risk from heart disease may take other risks as well.

The authors warn that those who receive negative results may also ignore future consequences of their behaviour: "For example, those who screen negative for cancer may feel safe continuing smoking." Glenda Cooper