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Prostate cancer screenings don't do much good, study says

April 01, 2011|By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
  • Washington University surgeon Dr. Gerald Andriole prepares a cancerous prostate specimen after removing it from a patient during surgery in January at Barnes Jewish West County Hospital in Creve Coeur, Miss.
Washington University surgeon Dr. Gerald Andriole prepares a cancerous… (Robert Cohen / McClatchy-Tribune )

Prostate cancer screenings are more trouble than they’re worth, according to a new study out Thursday in the British Medical Journal.

The study looked at 9,026 men in Sweden in their 50s and 60s. Nearly one-sixth of them --  1,494 men -- were screened every three years between 1987 and 1996.

Their findings? That after two decades of follow up, there wasn’t a difference in death rates between those who were screened and those who weren’t.

Another study in the New England Journal of Medicine has said that 1,410 men would need to be screened and 48 men would need to be treated (and treatment, radiation therapy, is no fun) in order to save one life.

But are the tests worth it, if at least for a little peace of mind? It’s hard to say -- as a BBC article points out, the results of prostate specific antigen testing can be misleading: “Around 15% of men with normal PSA levels will have prostate cancer and two-thirds of men with high levels of PSA do not in fact have prostate cancer.”

Follow me on Twitter @LAT_aminakhan.

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