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Canadian Task Force: Men do not need the Prostate Cancer Test

Update Date: Oct 28, 2014 10:35 AM EDT

A Canadian task force concluded that men should not get the prostate cancer test. According to these experts, the blood test that screens for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) can yield results that end up doing more harm than good for the patients.

"The ratio seems to be on the harm side - not the benefit side," said Dr. Neil Bell, a member of the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care and chair of its prostate cancer screening-working group, reported by Reuters.

The Canadian Task Force's latest decision that questions the safety of PSA screening is in line with several other organizations. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) does not recommend PSA screening.

The Canadian task force decided to recommend against PSA screening after finding strong evidence that the test can do more harm than good for men younger than 55 and older than 70.

Based on the numbers, the team explained that for men between the ages of 55 and 69, PSA screening could save one life out of every 1,000 men. For the remaining 999, 720 will test negative and 280 will test positive. Out of the positive group, 178 will undergo more testing that will most likely lead to a cancer-free prognosis. 102 of them will be correctly diagnosed. However, 33 of them will have cancers that would not progressed and become life threatening. Yet, due to these screenings, men end up receiving treatment and undergoing invasive procedure that were most likely not necessary.

"Available evidence does not conclusively show that PSA screening will reduce prostate cancer mortality, but it clearly shows an increased risk of harm," the task force wrote. "The task force recommends that the PSA test should not be used to screen for prostate cancer."

Despite expert opinion, a new study presented at the 2014 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons calculated that only about 17 percent of the top-ranked consumer health websites agree that PSA screening should not be recommended. Instead, many of these websites recommend patients to take an individualized-approach. For example, the American Urological Association and the American Cancer Society recommends patients to discuss with their physician on whether or not they should get screened.

"The recommendation not to screen men for prostate cancer is controversial," lead author Philip Zhao, MD, a urologist at The Arthur Smith Institute for Urology at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, New Hyde Park, N.Y, said according to Medical Xpress. "Our study results suggest that two-thirds of the online community disagree with the USPSTF recommendation against prostate cancer screening,"

The new guidelines can be found in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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