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Decade-long prostate screening programme didnt save extra lives

Monday 12th March 2018
PSA testing has no significant benefit for mens health and may be subjecting them to unnecessary anxiety, according to research results. Image: CIPhotos via iStock
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Prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing is not achieving the desired results in men, despite hopes that it would help to save lives.

This conclusion follows a large-scale PSA trial that has been conducted over the last ten years by researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Bristol.

During the past decade, more than 200,000 men aged between 50 and 69 were invited to undergo PSA testing, which is an investigative form of prostate cancer screening. At the same time, a similar number of males had their health monitored but were not subject to a PSA test.

After ten years, 4.3 per cent of men in the PSA test group had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, along with 3.6 per cent of those in the control group. While slightly more cases were identified following PSA testing, there were also slightly more participants in that group.

However, across both groups, the exact same percentage (0.29 per cent) of men died from prostate cancer.

This therefore shows that PSA testing is not necessarily helping to save men's lives. Instead, Cancer Research UK believes men may be being subjected to avoidable anxiety and uncomfortable testing that is having no real extra benefit to their health.

As a result, it is clear that a different method of screening is required to identify cases of prostate cancer as early on as possible so that patients can begin accessing the level of treatment and support that they need.

Dr Richard Roope, GP expert at Cancer Research UK, commented: "This trial illustrates that we need to develop more accurate tools if we want to save men's lives. Cancer Research UK's hunt for finding early stages of aggressive prostate cancer is not over.

"For example, we're funding research into faulty genes which make some men more likely to develop prostate cancer, and studying how these genes could help doctors to identify patients who are more at risk."

Written by Martin Lambert

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