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More Cancer Tests Mean More False-Positive Results
Date:5/11/2009

Risk for incorrect but worrying findings rises 50 percent by the 14th test, study finds,,,,

MONDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- The more cancer screening tests you undergo, the higher your risk of having at least one false-positive result, researchers say.

While that conclusion may seem like common sense, it's not something that patients or doctors often consider, suggest the authors of a study in the May/June issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

False-positive results from routine cancer screening can cause undue worry and in some cases lead to unnecessary biopsies or treatments, experts note.

In the new study, "after 14 tests total, over half of the people in our study had a false-positive result. No test is perfect, and you would expect to see it go up over time, but how rapidly the risk went up was surprising," said the study's lead author, Dr. Jennifer Croswell, acting director of the office of medical applications of research at the U.S. National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

"It's important to know ahead of time the risk of false-positives," she said. "Screenings have to be thought of like any other medical intervention and it's important to have the discussion about the risks and the benefits."

Croswell and her colleagues reviewed data from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial, which included nearly 70,000 participants. The study volunteers were between the ages of 55 and 74, and were randomly selected to receive either normal care or more intensive screening.

Those in the normal-care group were offered screening through their own private physicians as usual. Those in the intervention group were offered a baseline chest X-ray along with a yearly follow-up for two years for non-smokers and three years for smokers to check for lung cancer; a baseline flexible sigmoidoscopy to check for colorectal cancer, along with a three- o
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