More reasons to doubt one task force’s recommendations:
New studies show PSA tests slash death rates from prostate cancer explains Dr. Stephen Taylor of Pacific Urology in Concord:
Are you more confused than ever about the PSA test? If so, you’re hardly alone.
Based on recent news about this decades old screening procedure for prostate cancer, many American men are wondering whether to continue the PSA test as part of their annual physical exams.
In the spring of 2012, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force – an independent panel of health experts created by Congress in 1984 – issued a recommendation against prostate-specific antigen screening for men.
The task force said that the PSA test produces too many suspicious and false results, leading to needless and harmful biopsies and treatments.
The American Urological Association strongly disagrees. As a member of the AUA, I also disagree. Here are a few reasons why:
- An estimated 241,740 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed by year-end of 2012.
- That number includes approximately 25,000 men in California, where I live and practice urology.
- One in six men will have a prostate cancer diagnosis in his lifetime.
- Currently 2.5 million men in the United States have been diagnosed with prostate cancer and are still alive today.
Prostate cancer is a largely curable disease when detected early through screening. PSA testing is one very important piece of the screening puzzle.
New data from a study with Cancer magazine shows that PSA testing might prevent as many as 17,000 men from receiving a late-stage prostate cancer diagnosis. Without annual PSA testing, the study also found that diagnoses of advanced prostate cancer would triple amongst U.S. men.
Additional new studies also reinforce the importance of the PSA. For example, a recent European trial reported in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that one PSA every two to four years decreased prostate cancer death rates by 29 percent at 11 years.
I would expect statistics to show a more significant decline in prostate cancer deaths in the future, roughly 15 to 20 years.
The evidence strongly favors men having an annual test including a PSA, digital-rectal exam (DRE), and doctor evaluation, starting at age 50. It is simply the best (and only) tool we have for catching anything suspicious in the early stages.
In my next blog posting, I will address some of the proactive steps men can take to avoid prostate cancer.
Dr. Stephen Taylor, Pacific Urology of Concord