The Case for Less Cancer Screening

September 21, 2010

The Wall Street Journal

A one-time screening for prostate cancer could prevent further, unnecessary screenings for most men, according to a study in the journal Cancer. Researchers compared levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), the key biomarker for prostate cancer, among more than 86,000 men ages 55 to 74. About half the subjects came from the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland, where they were screened routinely as part of a medical trial. The other half came from Ireland, where most men aren't screened for prostate cancer. Based on the differences in prostate-cancer deaths between the two groups over nine years, the researchers concluded that routine screening provided little benefit for men with PSA levels below two nanograms per milliliter of blood, which amounted to two-thirds of the participants. In order to prevent one death from prostate cancer among these men, nearly 25,000 of them would have to be regularly screened. Routine screening was the most effective for the 15% of men who had PSA levels above four nanograms per milliliter: Fewer than 500 of them would need to be regularly screened to avoid one prostate-cancer death. A study in the British Medical Journal, published immediately after the Cancer report, came to a similar conclusion using a different methodology... Read More