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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Cancer Channel
Reported January 11, 2012

Mass Prostate Cancer Screenings Don't Reduce Deaths

(Ivanhoe Newswire)- New research from Washington University School of Medicine indicates that a screening for prostate cancer may be one thing you can scratch off your to-do list.

A major U.S. study of more than 76,000 men indicates that although more tumors are found with screenings, these tumors are slow-growing and unlikely to lead to death. The study's lead investigator, Gerald Andriole M.D., is quoted as saying, "We need to modify our current practices and stop screening elderly men and those with a limited life expectancy. Instead, we need to take a more targeted approach and selectively screen men who are young and healthy and particularly those at high risk for prostate cancer, including African-Americans and those with a family history of the disease."

Although it is unnecessary for most men to get a yearly prostate screening, it is a good idea for men to get a baseline prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test in their early 40s. Elevated PSA levels would be a helpful indicator to a doctor to keep a more careful watch on the patient's prostate health. Men in their 40s with low PSA levels are considered to be unlikely candidates for prostate cancer.

In the past, widespread testing has lead many men to be over-treated with surgery or radiation therapy and to suffer the side effects of such treatments, including urinary dysfunction, bowel dysfunction, and erectile dysfunction.

Men with both prostate cancer and another disease, such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes are much more likely to die from the other disease than they are to die from a slow growing prostate tumor.

"We have to take a more nuanced approach to determine which men should be screened with PSA in the first place, how frequently they should be tested, the PSA level at which they should be biopsied and whether their cancer warrants aggressive therapy." quotes Andriole.

This study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute comes just months after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends ending routine PSA testing for healthy men age 50 and older because of concerns that the test often leads to invasive biopsies and aggressive treatments and does not save lives.

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, January 2012

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