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Prostate Blood Test Found to Lower Cancer Death Risk

But overtreatment could pose other problems for those less vulnerable

PSA Testing

Yuri Arcurs/Getty Images

The blood test was found to lower the risk of death by prostate cancer by 25 to 32 percent.

An analysis of two major trials has found that prostate cancer screening in older men can reduce their risk of death by as much as a third. The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is useful in early tumor detection, according to the analysis, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In the two studies, one involving men ages 55 to 69 and the other with men ages 55 to 74, the blood test was found to lower the risk of death by prostate cancer by 25 to 32 percent.

The analysis found that the two studies “provide compatible evidence that screening reduces prostate cancer mortality.”

But that doesn’t mean men should rush to get tested. Many men could be treated for prostate cancer even though it’s unlikely the disease would have killed them, senior researcher Ruth Etzioni, a biostatistician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, told HealthDay. Prostate cancer surgery can result in incontinence and impotence.

“There are definitely harms,” she said, estimating that five times as many men will be overtreated as saved. Etzioni believes that patients will continue to decide on screening for the disease after consulting with their doctor.

The analysis marks a new look at the results of two 2009 clinical trials about the test’s role in reducing risk. A U.S. trial found no benefit to testing, but a European trial showed a 20 percent reduced death risk. The new research made adjustments to account for differences in the two trials, including the lack of a clear control group in the U.S. trial.