USPSTF Recommends No Prostate Screening

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force released a draft recommendation which advises against the use of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. Their previous recommendation from 2008 found insufficient evidence to assess the balance of benefits and harms of the PSA test for men under the age of 75. For men 75 and older, they recommended against the PSA test.

In this new recommendation, the USPSTF is recommending against the PSA test for all men regardless of age and it applies to those that do not have symptoms that are highly suspicious of the disease. They found that for men between the ages of 50 and 70 the reduction in prostate cancer mortality 10 years after screening is small to none. For men over the age of 70, screening has no mortality benefit. Approximately 80% of positive PSA tests are false positives; such results can have a negative psychological effect on the patient such as persistent worry about contracting prostate cancer. The evidence also suggests that PSA-based early screening does not prolong life as is usually the perception.

Not surprisingly, some cancer specialists are not happy with the draft recommendation saying that it's too drastic and a bit premature. Dr. Scott Eggener, a surgeon who specializes in prostate cancer at the University of Chicago, said that while the PSA test is not perfect, it has definitely saved lives.

The USPSTF made headlines in 2009 when they recommended that doctors reduce the use of mammograms for women in their 40s and 50s. The organization will start taking comments on this new draft recommendation beginning Tuesday, October 11th.

Sources:
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for Prostate Cancer: Draft Recommendation Statement. Retrieved from http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf12/prostate/draftrecprostate.htm
Steenhuysen, Julie. (10/7/2011). PSA test for prostate cancer not recommended: panel. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/07/us-cancer-prostate-idUSTRE79605220111007