Not All Men Need Prostate Cancer Screening

An independent panel of experts today recommended against prostate cancer screenings for men older than 74 and advised younger men to weigh the potential benefits and risks before undergoing the prostate screening test.

Prostate cancer remains the second-leading cancer killer of men, after lung cancer.

The recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are based on the premise that the benefits of screening are marginal after age 75 and that 70- to 75-year-old men are unlikely to benefit substantially from screening because of a shorter life expectancy and higher rates of false-positive results. Repeated prostate cancer screenings detect less aggressive tumors, making men more likely to undergo treatment that they don't need.

The screening recommendations were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, but the medical community remains divided on whether screening is effective for older men or if it leads to unnecessary treatment.

Most medical organizations recommend individual consultation with doctors to weigh risks and benefits, case by case. While some patients opt to be screened for prostate cancer to catch any problems early, others say that testing has not proved to reduce the chances of dying from the disease.

To read the task force recommendations and rationale for screening for prostate cancer, click here.

For more information on prostate cancer screening, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Decision Guide, which can help you determine if screening is right for you. It also offers a specialized screening guide for African-Americans, who are at higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

The National Cancer Institute outlines what screening practices are available for prostate cancer, as well as a full fact-sheet of the risks associated with prostate cancer screening. Risks include false-negative or false-positive results, and the screening may not improve health or extend life.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation, in its Detection and Screening section outlines the differences between the PSA blood test, which tracks the amount of a specific protein in the blood, and the DRE exam.

The National Cancer Institute's Fact Sheet on the PSA Test answers common questions about what the test examines, what the results mean and walks readers through the limitations.

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