A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the widely used prostate cancer screening test, PSA, misses 82 percent of tumors in men under 60, and 65 percent of cancers in older males. Most doctors biopsy men with a PSA greater than 4. Twenty-five percent of men with values between 4 and 10 have prostate cancer. A level above 10 increases cancer risk to 67 percent. The author, Dr. Punglia recommends lowering the normal levels to 2.6.

Eighty-two percent of men under 60 have a normal PSA below 4. The test missed 65 percent of the tumors in older men. Lowering normal PSA levels to 2.6 would double tumor detection rate to 36 percent in older men. However, the editorial states that there is no conclusive evidence that PSA screening reduces the risk of death from prostate cancer without reducing a man's quality of life. Prostate cancer is usually a slow-growing cancer and often does not require any treatment. However, prostate cancer kills about 29,000 Americans each year and is the second most common cancer killer of U.S. men, after lung cancer.

New England Journal of Medicine, July 23, 2003

Checked 8/9/05

Get our newsletter