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A Negative for PSA Test


A panel of experts from the US Preventive Services Task Force has determined that routine testing for prostate-specific antigen to test for possible prostate cancer in men is "doing more harm than good," reports ScienceInsider's Eliot Marshall. There is no need to screen healthy men for PSA, USPSTF said, as the test is not reliable in determining cancer risk and can lead to detrimental side effects from over-treatment. "Based on trial data it has prevented few deaths — at best potentially 1 in 1,000 men screened," Marshall says. "Yet the task force finds that for every 1,000 men screened, the subsequent medical treatment leaves one with a blood clot, two with treatment-related heart attacks, and up to 40 with impotence or urinary incontinence." This changes the task force's previous recommendation, released in 2008, that equivocated over whether men younger than 75 could receive any benefit from PSA screening. "After studying recent clinical trials, however, the task force scrapped its hedged language and endorsed a clear negative," Marshall adds.

The American Urological Association released a statement saying it is "outraged" at the task force's recommendation. AUA President Sushil Lacy further called the recommendation "inappropriate and irresponsible," especially for at-risk populations like African-American men.

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