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PSA Screening Still Puzzling

PSA Screening Still Puzzling

Prostate cancer screening with a PSA test may not save lives. The prostate specific antigen or PSA test has been controversial for years. Many doctors have relied on the PSA test to help identify men who may have prostate cancer that requires treatment. Recently, though, experts have been debating the value of this screening test. The Preventive Services Task Force recommended that healthy men forego routine PSA screening because it doesn’t save lives and may lead to unnecessary interventions. Now a study from Europe shows that the test can help with prostate cancer detection and reduce deaths from the cancer. But the overall mortality rate was the same for men who were screened and those who were not.

The researchers followed over 180,000 men for more than a decade. The investigators concluded that 1055 men would need screening to prevent one prostate cancer death. They also found that approximately half of the cancers found through screening should be considered overdiagnosed. They were cancers that would not have caused the men difficulty. An accompanying editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that this study supports the recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that the PSA test not be used for routine screening.

[New England Journal of Medicine, March 15, 2012]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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