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Study Finds PSA Testing Cuts Prostate Cancer Death Risk
Date:3/15/2012

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- Adding another perspective to one of the most controversial and confounding issues in medicine, a new European study reports that men who received routine prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests to check for signs of prostate cancer were 30 percent less likely to die from the disease.

But the big picture isn't simple enough for the new research to solve once and for all the question of whether PSA testing helps men.

"There is little doubt that a man who undergoes testing will have about a 30 percent less chance of dying from prostate cancer," said the study's lead author, Dr. Fritz Schroder, professor of urology at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands. "On the other side, there's a 30 percent chance that a cancer found is insignificant and the patient may be confronted with the side effects of treatment unnecessarily."

Schroder is referring to the major issue in the PSA debate: Do the PSA tests do more harm than good?

In some cases, the tests detect cancer that would be deadly, giving men an opportunity to treat it and potentially survive. In other cases, men are unnecessarily treated for cancer that actually would develop so slowly that it wouldn't threaten their lives.

There's also the matter of cost -- PSA screenings cost an estimated $3 billion in the United States each year -- and the potentially severe side effects of treatment, including incontinence and impotence. In addition, the new study found that only about 0.5 percent of men developed the cancer and died from it in the period reviewed.

For the new study, the scientists examined the medical records of more than 160,000 men in eight European countries, who ranged in age from 55 to 69 when the study began. Some were randomly assigned to receive PSA screening tests.

After an average of 11 years, the men in the study who got screened were 21 perce
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