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Psychological Science explains uproar over prostate-cancer screenings
Date:5/22/2012

WASHINGTON The uproar that began last year when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force stated that doctors should no longer offer regular prostate-cancer tests to healthy men continued this week when the task force released their final report. Overall, they stuck to their guns, stating that a blood test commonly used to screen for prostate cancer, the PSA test, causes more harm than good it leads men to receive unnecessary, and sometimes even dangerous, treatments.

But many people simply don't believe that the test is ineffective. Even faced with overwhelming evidence, such as a ten-year study of around 250,000 men that showed the test didn't save lives, many activists and medical professionals are clamoring for men to continue receiving their annual PSA test. Why the disconnect?

In an article published in Psychological Science, a publication of the Association for Psychological Science, researchers Hal R. Arkes, of Ohio State University, and Wolfgang Gaismaier, from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany, picked apart laypeople's reactions to the report, and examined the reasons why people are so reluctant to give up the PSA test.

"Many folks who had a PSA test and think that it saved their life are infuriated that the Task Force seems to be so negative about the test," said Arkes.

They suggest several factors that may have contributed to the public's condemnation of the report. Many studies have shown that anecdotes have power over a person's perceptions of medical treatments. For example, a person can be shown statistics that Treatment A works less frequently than Treatment B, but if they read anecdotes (such as comments on a website) by other patients who had success with Treatment B, they'll be more likely to pick Treatment B. The source of the anecdotes matters too. If a friend, a close relative, or any trusted source received successful treatment, they would be more likely to recomme
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Contact: Anna Mikulak
amikulak@psychologicalscience.org
202-293-9300
Association for Psychological Science
Source:Eurekalert

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