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Experts issue call to reconsider screening for breast cancer and prostate cancer
Date:10/20/2009

breast cancer the relative reduction in deaths from screening has also been limited.

The authors said that breast cancer and prostate cancer screening has not led to a more significant drop in deaths in the U.S. for two primary reasons: Screening increases the detection of slow growing and indolent tumors, and it often misses the most aggressive cancers because many may not be detected early enough for cure.

"In other words, tumor biology dictates and trumps stage, so the basic assumption of these screening programs that finding and treating early stage disease will prevent late stage or metastatic disease may not always be correct," they state.

Periodic screening may find some tumors early, but patients may not be screened often enough for lethal tumors to be detected in time to prevent death, the authors conclude: "Without the ability to distinguish cancers that pose minimal risk from those posing substantial risk and with highly sensitive screening tests, there is an increased risk that the population will be over-treated."

"People will think that we're saying screening is bad, and nothing could be further from the truth," said Ian Thompson, MD, who has authored about 400 scientific articles addressing prevention, early detection, and treatment for prostate, kidney, and bladder cancers. "What we are saying is that if you want to stop suffering and death from these diseases, you can't rely on screening alone."

"The basic assumption that screening programs that find and treat early stage disease will then prevent late-stage disease, or prevent cancer from spreading, may not always be correct," added Thompson. "If a tumor is aggressive, finding it early may not prevent death."

Thompson is professor and chairman of the Department of Urology and holds the Glenda and Gary Woods Distinguished Chair in Genitourinary Oncology at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio
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Contact: Elizabeth Fernandez
EFernandez@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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