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Prostate Cancer Screening: Benefits Outweigh Risks

Researchers Say Prostate Cancer Screening Nearly Halves Mortality Rate
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PSA Test Cuts Prostate Cancer Deaths continued...

The authors note that a great deal of screening needs to take place to avoid one death. Their statistical analysis showed that 293 men needed to be screened and 12 men needed to be diagnosed and treated to result in one less death from prostate cancer. The study is ongoing.

“The risk of over-diagnosis is less than previously reported, but still 12 men need to be diagnosed to save one life,” Hugosson and his colleagues said. “Among men participating in the study at or below age 60, the risk of prostate cancer death was notably low, with only a quarter of the expected rate of death from prostate cancer.”

The findings suggest the benefits of prostate cancer screening can outweigh the risks, they say.

“In this trial, prostate cancer screening was well accepted by the general population and can result in a relevant reduction in cancer mortality, greater than that reported in screening for breast or colorectal cancer,” the authors write. Nevertheless, “the benefit from PSA screening requires at least 10 years to take effect, it seems questionable to invite all men over the age of 70 years for PSA testing.”

PSA Test Not Perfect

This study follows another recent European study examining the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening. Known as the European Randomised Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC), it showed that during a shorter follow-up period of nine years a total of 1,410 men needed to be screened and 48 men had to be treated to save one life. That study also showed a 20% reduction in mortality over the course of a nine-year follow-up.

Prostate cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death among men in the United States; every year, more than 28,000 men die from the disease and more than 203,000 men are diagnosed with the illness.

In an accompanying editorial, David E. Neal, at the University of Cambridge in England, says he’s cautiously optimistic about the results of this study. The findings, he writes, “show that in certain circumstances, PSA testing and early diagnosis reduces death from prostate cancer.” However, “it does not imply that PSA screening programs should now be introduced internationally.”

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