Prostate cancer screening does little to prolong survival

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Jan. 30, 2006

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There is little evidence that measuring prostate-specific antigen levels in the blood and performing digital rectal exams are effective in reducing death from prostate cancer, says a study in the Jan. 9 Archives of Internal Medicine. While the screening tests could detect cancer at earlier stages, they did not necessarily prolong survival, researchers said.

They compared the treatment of 501 men age 50 and older who were diagnosed with prostate cancer between 1991 and 1995 and had died by 1999 with the treatment for 501 living men matched for age and treatment.

Medical records were reviewed to determine if the men in either group had been screened for prostate cancer. They found that 14% of the men who died of prostate cancer and 13% of the men in the control group had been screened with PSA, a similar rate. If prostate cancer screening prevented death, then fewer of the men who died would have received screening compared with the men who were living, the researchers concluded.

Thus far, evidence has led to varying recommendations. The American Cancer Society says physicians should offer the PSA blood test and digital rectal exam to men 50 and older. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has found insufficient evidence to recommend the screenings, and the American College of Physicians advises counseling men about the tests' benefits and risks.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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