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Almost Half of Prostate Cancer Deaths Could Be Predicted Before the Age of 50

Update Date: Apr 17, 2013 12:29 PM EDT

A recent study has found that nearly half of deaths from prostate cancer can be detected before men reach the age of 50.

Prostate cancer screening is considered controversial by many. Screening for prostate cancer currently first involves a blood test that examines the levels of the prostate specific antigen, or PSA. However, simply having a high PSA level is not indicative of having cancer; according to Reuters, a biopsy is necessary as well, and many men do not undergo the biopsies. In addition, many men receive aggressive treatments that leave side effects like incontinence and erectile dysfunction, even if their prostate cancer was not a life-threatening one.

Regardless, one study indicated that a high PSA level at the age of 60 is strongly linked to death from prostate cancer by the age of 85. Looking earlier, a recent study looked at the effects of PSA screening on younger men. The researchers examined data from the Malmo Preventative Project, a study that compiled data on 21,277 men between the ages of 27 and 52. As participants in the study, all of the men contributed blood samples; six years later, 4,922 gave a second blood sample. The researchers looked in particular at men who were around the ages of 40 to 55.

In the 25 to 30 years following the study, men whose PSA levels placed them in the highest 10 percent, with a PSA of 1.5 ng/ml or greater, amounted to 44 percent of the deaths from prostate cancer. They were about 10 times more likely to die from the disease than the men in the lowest 25 percent.

The study found that screening before the age of 40 caught two few cancers, while waiting until the age of 50 meant that too many cancers would be missed until they had progressed. However, screening men between the age of 45 and 49 caught 44 percent of the cancers that would go on to be deadly, BBC reports.

The researchers suggest that all men should be screened in their mid- to late forties. If the PSA is high, they should return for frequent screenings. If not, they can go without screenings until their early fifties.

The study was published in the journal BMJ.

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