NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 12, 2006

Men who have been screened for prostate cancer by the most commonly used tests have no greater chance of surviving the disease than those who have not been screened at all, according to a report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers found that a prostate specific antigen test, known as a P.S.A., did not work to reduce deaths from prostate cancer.

The researchers used the records of nearly 72,000 men over 50 who received outpatient care at any of 10 Veterans Affairs hospitals in New England:

  • Of this group, 1,425 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer from 1991 to 1995, and of those, 501 died of the disease as of 1999.
  • Screening with P.S.A. had been performed for 70 of the men who died
  • As part of a comparison control group, the researchers randomly selected a living patient for each case and found 65 who had been screened with P.S.A.

If screening had been effective, the researchers contend, a lower proportion of screened patients would have been found among the group of men who had died. But this was not the case.

The researchers did acknowledge, however, that there are good studies with different findings, and that more research would be needed to settle the question of whether prostate cancer screening does more harm than good, or the reverse.

Source: Nicholas Bakalar, "Report Casts Fresh Doubts on Prostate Cancer Testing," New York Times, January 10, 2006.

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