Groups differ over recommendations for prostate cancer screening.
New recommendations on screening for prostate cancer have led to a reduction in the number of biopsies and surgeries, but some groups wonder if some men are at risk of developing dangerous cancers, according to nbcnews.com.
In 2012, the U.S Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended against using a blood test called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) as a tool to check for prostate cancer in men, because the agency found most men who tested positive were treated needlessly for tumors that were slow-growing and probably would have not harmed them anyway.
Some of those treatments led to conditions such as impotence and incontinence, causing more harm to the men than the tumors they were trying to treat. But Dr. Jim Hu, a urologic oncologist at New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, says he and his colleagues are concerned that some men with dangerous cancers are going untreated and the controversial recommendations may have gone too far in the other direction.
Hu, who helped lead the research team, said the group found nearly a 29 percent drop in the number of biopsies done for prostate cancer since 2012, and the number of radical prostatectomies also fell by 16 percent.
Prostate cancer is quite common, striking about 240,000 men in the United States each year, and is associated with approximately 27,000 deaths.
The recommendations are controversial because, although the American Cancer Society supports them, the American Urological Association (AUA) does not agree. While the AUA does agree the test is not beneficial to men under the age of 55, the association recommends it for all men aged 55-69. Studies have shown that routine PSA testing saves the life of one of every 1,000 men who are screened.
“The greatest benefit of screening appears to be in men ages 55 to 69 years,” according to the AUA. “The AUA continues to support a man’s right to be tested for prostate cancer — and to have his insurance pay for it, if medically necessary.”
Understanding the lead time associated with PSA screening is about 5-7 years, Hu and his colleagues say it is too early to say if some men may have missed being treated due to the reduction in screenings.
The USPSTF says they are reviewing their guidelines for prostate cancer screening, but has not said when that review will be completed.