Healthy men should not receive the common blood test for prostate cancer since it does not save lives and leads to unnecessary anxiety, surgery and complications, a U.S. government panel says.
The recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force was made public last week. The task force based its draft recommendations on an exhaustive review of the latest scientific evidence.
Although prostate enlargment and possible cancer can be detected with a physical examination, the prostate specific antigen test has become the most common indicator of a possible diagnosis.
The PSA test, routinely given to men who are 50 and older, measures a protein released by prostate cells. Though it helps to identify the presence of cancerous cells in the prostate, a vast majority of men with such cells never suffer ill effects since their cancer is usually slow-growing. Prostate cancer often grows so slowly that many men die from something else without knowing they had it.
Prostate cancer strikes more than 218,000 men in the U.S. each year. About 28,000 die of it, making it the most common cancer and the second-leading cancer killer among men.
The task force plans to recommend downgrading PSA testing to a “D’’ rating. That means “there is moderate or high certainty that the service has no net benefit or that the harm outweighs the benefits.’’