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Many Older Men Won't Benefit from PSA Test

Screening may prove an unnecessary expense in men 75 or older, researchers say

FRIDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Routine prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood tests offer no benefit to many men ages 75 to 80, a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed data from 727 prostate cancer patients and 122 cancer-free men who took part in the U.S. National Institute on Aging's Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging and had regular PSA testing.

The Johns Hopkins-led study found that none of the men between 75 and 80 years old who had PSA levels lower than 3 nanograms per milliliter died of prostate cancer and only one developed aggressive prostate cancer. However, men of all ages with a PSA level of 3 nanograms per milliliter or higher had a continually rising risk of dying from prostate cancer.

The findings, published in the April issue of the Journal of Urology, suggest that many older men may no longer require PSA testing. If confirmed in future studies, the results may help determine more specific age-based guidelines for when it's safe to stop PSA screening, said lead investigator Dr. Edward Schaeffer, an assistant professor of urology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

PSA testing helps detect prostate cancer at the early stages and is credited with helping reduce prostate cancer deaths. But discontinuing unnecessary PSA testing in certain older men could help reduce screening costs and health problems caused by additional tests or treatments.

"We need to identify where we should best focus our health care dollars by concentrating on patients who can actually benefit from PSA testing. These findings give a very strong suggestion of when we can start to counsel patients on when to stop testing," Schaeffer said.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about PSA testing.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, Feb. 20, 2009

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