Study Finds Prostate Cancer Test Doesn’t Save Lives

Study Finds Prostate Cancer Test Doesn't Save LivesA new study on routine prostate specific antigen (PSA) screening, which has been the source of controversy in the past, has found that the procedure does not save lives, according to HealthDay.

"Organized prostate cancer screening when done in addition to whatever background testing exists in the population does not result in any apparent benefit, but does result in harm from false positives and over-diagnosis," said lead researcher Philip Prorok, from the Division of Cancer Prevention at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Prorok added that men considering undergoing a prostate cancer screening should be made fully aware of the implications of the test before making a decision.

Prior to this study, experts disagreed on whether the form of blood test helps save lives or results in over-diagnosis and over-treatment. The new findings are the result of a follow-up to a 13-year study, and were published in a recent edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The study analyzed men enrolled in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening trial, which took place from 1993 to 2009, and compared the results of men who had received the screening and those who had not been tested.

One group was given PSA screenings every year for six years and a digital rectal examination once a year for four years. The other group received regular care, which only included screening if requested by the patient or doctor.

Compared to the latter group, the men who received the screenings showed a 12 percent increase in prostate cancer. The results remained true even after age and other medical conditions were factored into the study.

Among the prostate cancer patients, the screened group had a relatively higher rate of death from other causes compared to the usual care group. Prorok says this suggests those who received the screening were over-diagnosed, and likely had medical conditions that were not life threatening.

"PSA testing and digital rectal examination screening as conducted in this trial did not reduce prostate cancer mortality, but there was a persistent excess of prostate cancer cases in the screened arm, suggesting over-diagnosis of prostate cancer," Prorok said.

According to the American Cancer Society, there are nearly 2 million prostate cancer survivors in the country. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 240,890 men were diagnosed with the disease in 2011.