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Report: Prostate cancer test does more harm than good

An independent panel of American public health officials has said doctors should no longer use the PSA test to screen for prostate cancer in healthy men, amid concerns the risks of performing the test outweigh its benefits.

The prostate specific antigen (PSA) test measures levels of a protein in the blood that are elevated in the presence of prostate cancer and it has been a routine part of medical care for men aged 55 and older in the United States and other developed countries since the 1990s, Voice of America reported.

However, according to a report by the Preventive Services Task Force cited by Bloomberg, the number of deaths avoided by screening are "very small" compared to risks from treatment, which "can include infections, incontinence, erectile dysfunction and death."

"Many men are being subjected to the harms of treatment of prostate cancer that will never become symptomatic," the panel's reportedly concluded.  "There is convincing evidence that PSA-based screening for prostate cancer results in considerable over-treatment."

The task force's full report, which was based on studies of 250,000 men, was published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Our most optimistic estimate is that 1 out of 1,000 men screened will avoid dying from prostate cancer (because of early detection via the PSA test)," Dr. Michael LeFevre, co-vice chair of the task force is quoted as saying by The Boston Globe. “We’re not saying it’s zero. We’re leaving the window open for at least a small benefit.”

The LA Times said the advice against screening was proving difficult for physician and patients to accept, while the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) and Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand urged men to still discuss prostate cancer screening with their doctor, despite the new Task Force guidelines, The Australian newspaper reported.

So far this year, more than 241,000 men in the United states have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, making it the second most diagnosed cancer among men. An estimated 28,000 died from the disease during that time, according to the American Cancer Society.

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This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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