July 1st, 2010
01:18 PM ET

Screening for prostate cancer reduces deaths by half

PSA tests look for evidence of prostate cancer, pictured above at the microscopic level, in the blood of men. Men who score high on the test may often have an early form of the disease. Evidence as to whether this type of early detection actually works to dramatically lower the prostate cancer death rate has been mixed, but a new study in the British medical journal the Lancet Oncology suggests the test leads to life-saving treatments that reduce deaths from the disease by nearly half.

Swedish researchers screened 10,000 men between the ages of 50 and 65 years old for prostate cancer every two years for 14 years. They studied the group against a similar population of men who were not screened. The screenings turned up more cancers and prevented nearly twice as many deaths as compared  the control group.

"This study shows a much higher mortality reduction than in previous studies," says study author Jonas Hugosson, a professor at the University of Gothenburg, in his report. "Prostate cancer screening...can result in a relevant reduction in cancer mortality, greater than that reported in screening for breast or colorectal cancer."

Early detection for prostate cancer has led to disagreement among doctors. PSA tests are able to detect prostate cancer, but they don't fully reveal how dangerous the cancer is. If it happens to be a slow growing cancer, it may not be deadly and removing it comes with risk: radiation and surgery that can potentially cause men to have problems urinating or having sex, according to the American Cancer Society.

A previous study in Europe found 48 prostate cancers had to be treated to save one life. This new study suggests diagnosing just 12 cases saves a life. The American Cancer Society does not recommend mandatory early detection for prostate cancer, and instead recommends men at average risk for the disease discuss the risks and advantages of screening with their doctor starting at age 50.

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. tina

    HI Sanjay Gupta My husband woke up from bed about an hour ago complaining that his lip is swollen When I look is bottom lip was swollen and so were his hands. I asked him if his toung was swollen and if he was haveing difficulty breathing and he said no. I think hes haveing an allergic reaction but Im not sure. Can you help me

    July 1, 2010 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Bill

    I am 47 and just finished radiation treatments for prostate cancer. Having the psa test saved my life. If my doctor followed the age recommendations for testing it would have been too late. There are no symptoms for early stage cancer.

    July 1, 2010 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bill

      Thank God for your doctor. The people at the American Cancer Assoc. must be quacks. If your doctor followed their recommendations you'd be dead of dying. What is the big deal about getting a simple PSA test once a year?

      I am so cynical about this because I think it is the insurance companies that don't want to pay for millions of PSAs and especially for all the biopsies that turn out to be negative.

      July 1, 2010 at 21:46 | Report abuse |
  3. Chuck March

    I was 66 when taking a regular PSA check. It was elvated and a biopsy confirmed early stages of protate cancer. Many options were suggested from surgery, radiation, seeds and waiting. I opted for proton therapy, a newer form of radiaition, and have been cancer free for three years and most importantly, no side effects.

    July 1, 2010 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Success

    Since my father had prostate cancer, I've gotten somewhat regular PSA checks. Sure enough, last year I had an elevated reading that turned out to be cancer. Had robotic surgery, cancer's gone, and I'm living a completely normal life. I'm obviously a big believer in the wisdom of PSA checks.

    July 1, 2010 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. wtholt1

    Had received my PSA results the week I was "furloughed" from my 17.5 yr position and now find myself without health insurance (champus expired) and have had to wait nearly 4 months to become poor enough to qualify for CMS (County Medical Services here in San Diego) for medical treatment. I'm 57 yrs old with my last PSA @ 9.1 and, with a father who died from prostate cancer at the age of 64, so I really want to do all I can to get this taken care of a.s.a.p. I'm "more than hoping" that the County med staff are able to refer me now to an agressive cancer clinic that can establish a critical path for my cure.

    Just wanted to share!

    July 1, 2010 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Bill

    Who ever wrote this article doesn't know what they are talking about. The article states that. "PSA tests are able to detect prostate cancer." That is wrong. The PSA is not a diagnostic tool and does not detect prostate cancer. A biopsy detects prostate cancer.

    Did anyone proof read these articles before they are printed?

    July 1, 2010 at 21:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Bridgett

    My father gets his PSA done every year with his yearly physical. A few years ago, his doctor noticed that his PSA level went up from the previous year. After all of the additional testing he ended up having Prostate cancer that they found early and were able to remove his prostate. Now he has been cancer free for 2.5 years. All men should be tested early, it saved my dads life because there were no symptoms, only the PSA level that had gone up in one year.

    July 2, 2010 at 00:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Richard Byrne

    There is pro and con about PSA tests. I had seeds implanted 20 years ago and am pleased with the results of my yearly tests. Most prostate cancers SHOULD NOT BE TREATED but nobody can say WHICH.

    May 3, 2014 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.