There is new evidence that annual prostate cancer screening does not reduce deaths from the disease, even among men in their 50s and 60s and those with underlying health conditions, according to new research led by Washington University School of Medicine.
The updated results of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial were published in January 2012 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
“The data confirm that for most men, it is not necessary to be screened annually for prostate cancer,” says the study’s lead author and principal investigator Gerald Andriole Jr., MD. “A large majority of the cancers we found are slow-growing tumors that are unlikely to be deadly.”
The PLCO study involved men ages 55 to 74, who were randomly assigned to receive either annual PSA tests (which measure the level of PSA, prostate specific antigen, a protein produced by the prostate) for six years and digital rectal exams for four years or “routine care,” meaning they had the screening tests only if their physicians recommended them.
The researchers detected 12 percent more prostate tumors among men screened annually compared to those who received routine care (4,250 tumors vs. 3,815 tumors). There were 158 deaths in the screening group compared to 145 in the control group, which is not statistically significant.