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Annual prostate cancer screening test appears to save lives


Men who have a yearly blood test to examine their prostate specific antigen levels are nearly three times less likely to die from prostate cancer than those who don’t have annual screenings, according to a study presented October 19, 2005, at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology’s 47th Annual Meeting in Denver.

The study shows that over an estimated 10-year period, men who have an annual prostate specific antigen (PSA) test will have a 3.6 percent chance of dying from the disease, compared to 11.3 percent in the general population. Patients who have the test are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer that is curable in the vast majority of cases, as opposed to aggressive cancers that are less likely to be curable.

"The PSA blood test is the best simple screening test available for prostate cancer that picks up prostate cancer earlier, while it’s still curable," said Jason Efstathiou, M.D., lead author of the study and a resident at the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program in Boston.

A PSA test is a blood test that measures the level of prostate specific antigen, a protein produced by the prostate. Increased levels of PSA may be a sign of prostate cancer.

The study took place between 1988 and 2002 and involved 1,492 men who were treated for prostate cancer by the surgical removal of their prostate and whose cancer came back. Among this group, 841 men had yearly PSA tests before their cancer diagnosis, while 611 men were diagnosed by other methods. There are large, randomized trials currently going in both the U.S. and Europe that will further confirm the impact of PSA screening tests among prostate cancer patients by 2008.

Beth Bukata | EurekAlert!
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