Prostate Cancer Tests Overdone in Elderly

Study says excessive screening unnecessary for men over 75

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TUESDAY, Dec. 2, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Elderly American men may be receiving excessive prostate cancer screening, says a study in the Dec. 3 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The study found doctors frequently recommend prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening to men 75 and older, even though there is general agreement that routine cancer screening of men in this age group had little benefit.

Researchers analyzed data from a sample of 7,889 men who took part in the 2000 National Health Interview Survey. About 32.5 percent of men aged 75 or older reported they had undergone a PSA screening test during the previous year. On a national level, that percentage would represent about 1.47 million American men.

Among the elderly men who reported having a PSA screening test, 88.4 percent said that their doctor first suggested screening and 66.5 percent said they discussed with their doctors the advantages and disadvantages of the PSA screening.

"It is somewhat surprising that so many physicians would suggest screening (or be perceived as suggesting screening) in elderly men when the benefits have not even been established among younger men," the study authors write.

Screening people who are unlikely to benefit may deplete health-care resources, potentially cause harm to the patients, and cause unnecessary anxiety, the authors suggest.

"Ultimately, decisions regarding the appropriateness of PSA screening in elderly men and the allocation of health-care resources will have to be made by patients, physicians and society working together," the authors write.

"Until such decisions can be made, recognizing and understanding the reasons for the high rates of PSA screening in elderly men may provide insights into how patients (and physicians) use, interpret and apply medical data. Such information may be critically important for the development of strategies designed to increase understanding of the risks and benefits of PSA screening in elderly men," they add.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about prostate cancer screening.

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, news release, Dec. 2, 2003

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