The PSA test, commonly used as a screening tool for detecting prostate cancer, is now all but useless for predicting prostate cancer risk, according to Stanford University School of Medicine researchers. A study of prostate tissues collected over 20 years - from the time it first became standard to remove prostates in response to high PSA levels to the present - reveals that as a screen, the test now indicates nothing more than the size of the prostate gland.
"The PSA era is over in the United States," said Thomas Stamey, MD, professor of urology and lead author of the study published in the October issue of the Journal of Urology. "Our study raises a very serious question of whether a man should even use the PSA test for prostate cancer screening any more."
The PSA test measures prostate specific antigen, a protein normally produced by the prostate gland. Stamey published the original findings in 1987 in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that increased blood PSA levels could be used to indicate prostate cancer. However, through the years, Stamey has come to believe that the PSA test is actually not a useful predictor of the amount or severity of prostate cancer. He said elevated levels of that protein actually reflect a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia, a harmless increase in prostate size.
M.A. Malone | EurekAlert!
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