Doctors reject calls for prostate screening

Doctors have rejected calls for routine population screening for prostate cancer, arguing there is no evidence it would make a difference.

A study in the BMJ has concluded that existing evidence from randomised controlled trials does not support routine population screening for prostate cancer.

But another study in the same journal has suggested that a single test at age 60 could identify men who are most likely to develop and die from prostate cancer.

These men, it argued, could then be monitored more closely, while others could be exempt from further screening.

But a further study, published in the Journal of the British Association of Urological Surgeons, concluded that, for men with a genetic predisposition to prostate cancer, screening could still be effective.

The JBAI study, funded by Cancer Research UK and led by scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, added that measuring levels of prostate-specific antigen is problematic because many men with high levels of it do not necessarily have prostate cancer and, as it cannot differentiate between those whose cancer is aggressive and those who will not develop symptoms, it could lead to over-diagnosis and unnecessary treatment.

Ed Yong, Cancer Research UK head of health evidence and information, said: “Measuring PSA levels could potentially cut a man’s chance of fatal prostate cancer.

“But we know that for every life saved, a lot of men will go through unnecessary tests and treatments, including invasive surgery with serious side-effects.”

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