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Prostate-Specific Antigen Test Recommendations Based on Flawed Data

As controversy continues to swirl around a recent change in prostate cancer screening for men, a new evaluation has found the data used to back the alteration of screening guidance was based on flawed data. The Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovary (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial found that there was no real survival benefit related to the PSA test. With that study in mind, the United States Preventative Services Task Force essentially took the simple blood test off the table for routine screening of healthy men. Since that recommendation went into place, use of the PSA has declined dramatically along with the diagnosis rate of prostate cancer in the United States.

A new study, however, has found that the PSA remains highly valuable in reducing prostate cancer mortality. What’s more, an evaluation of the PLCO trial found that more than 80 percent of the men who were meant to be in the “unscreened” control group had, in fact, had at least one PSA during the study.

The two new developments in regard to the PSA have added fuel to the ongoing debate about the use of this test for screening men on a routine basis. After all, one of the reasons the PSA was taken off the table was due to its high false positive rate that led to unnecessary biopsies. Some healthcare providers argue that the test remains a strong first line of defense against this disease, enabling early detection of potentially life-threatening cases. Others, however, say the test should only be used when a man’s risks for the disease are high.

While the issue continues to be debated, men can help themselves by having an open discuss with their healthcare providers about prostate cancer and their personal risks. Screening through the PSA and other tools is still very much available for those who wish to pursue it.