Researchers found that a significantly higher percentage of men are screened for prostate cancer than for colorectal cancer, despite the fact that prostate screening has not been proven to reduce prostate cancer deaths while colorectal screening can substantially reduce the mortality from colon and rectal cancer.
The study provides the first national population-based estimates of rates of screening with PSA (prostate-specific antigen) the blood test for prostate cancer and compared the extent U.S. men undergo PSA screening to colon cancer screening. While there is widespread agreement in the medical community that men (and women) should be screened for colon cancer annually starting at age 50, there is no consensus about whether men should be screened for prostate cancer.
"We wanted to see if medical practice reflects scientific evidence," said lead author, Dr. Brenda Sirovich, assistant professor of medicine at DMS and the VA Outcomes Group in White River Junction, VT. The study appears in the March 19 issue of The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), co-authored by Drs. Lisa Schwartz and Steven Woloshin, also assistant professors of medicine at DMS and members of the VA outcomes group.
The results were surprising, said Sirovich. "We anticipated that if medical care was in line with scientific evidence, then the proven test colorectal cancer screening would be more common than the unproven prostate cancer screening. This was not the case. More men had been tested for prostate cancer than for colon cancer in all but four states [where rates were equal]. That tells us there is a mismatch between the scientific evidence of screening benefit and what men are actually being screened for."
Using data from a survey of almost 50,000 men conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and
Contact: Andrew Nordhoff
Dartmouth Medical School