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Study Questions Value of PSA Test for Older Men
Date:4/15/2013

MONDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- Only one-third of men over age 65 who receive an abnormal result from their PSA test actually undergo prostate biopsy to look for disease, a new study finds.

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening is a common test that measures the level of a key marker for prostate cancer in the blood. In general, the higher the level of this protein, the more likely it is that a man has prostate cancer, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

The value of the PSA test has recently come into question, however, with several studies suggesting it causes men more harm than good -- spotting too many slow-growing tumors that, especially in older patients, may never lead to serious illness or death.

The new study focused on this issue once again, tracking outcomes for nearly 300,000 men, aged 65 and older, who underwent PSA screening in the U.S. Veterans Affairs health care system in 2003. The men's health was followed for up to five years.

There were more than 25,000 men with clinically abnormal PSA levels. According to the study authors, during the five-year follow-up period, only 33 percent of those men underwent at least one prostate biopsy to check for evidence of cancer. About 63 percent of those who did have a biopsy were diagnosed with prostate cancer, of whom 82 percent were treated for their cancer.

The older the man, the less likely he was to have a prostate biopsy after having an abnormal PSA screening test result. Men with other health problems were also less likely to undergo a prostate biopsy, the investigators reported.

The study was published online April 15 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Among men with biopsy-detected prostate cancer, the risk of death from causes other than prostate cancer increased with age and with the presence of other health problems, Dr. Louise Walter, of San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and colleague
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