Researchers now claim a new study reveals that yearly prostate exams are not reducing the number of cancer related deaths. The new study questions the legitimacy of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, which is used to screen men for prostate cancer. The issue was brought to light recently as multiple studies observed similar conclusions.
The study followed 76 men, between the ages of 55 to 74 years old, for 13 years. For six years, half of the men received digital rectal exams and PSA tests to screen for prostate cancer. The other half continued care with their regular doctors and they are considered the control group.
It was discovered by researchers that more men in the screening group had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, but there was no difference in how many had died from it. According to Reuters, 13 years after the start of the study, 4,250 men who’d undergone annual screening had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, compared to 3,815 not in the screening program.
Philip Prorok, from the National Cancer Institute said, “Men, if they’re considering screening, should be aware that there’s a possibility that there’s little or no benefit (and) that there certainly are harms to PSA screening.”
Critics say the study is fundamentally flawed because men in the control group could have received PSA screening from their regular doctor, as part of standard procedure for men 50 or older. The conclusions would be affected because men in this group should have actually been counted in the screening group. One urologic cancer specialist not involved in the study, said that was a serious flaw. “It ends up being a study of intensive screening versus fairly intensive screening,” he said. “You can’t really make sense of it.”
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