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Unproven prostate cancer screening more popular than valuable colon test

White River Junction, VT - Prostate cancer screening is more popular than colon cancer screening - a procedure known to prevent cancer and reduce death. The results surprised Department of Veterans Affairs researchers since the proven benefits of colon screening appear to have little influence on the majority of men aged 50 and older who are getting checked for cancer. Their findings appear in the March 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"We were surprised by the results," said lead author Brenda Sirovich, M.D., of the VA Outcomes Group, White River Junction, VT, VA Medical Center and the Darmouth Medical School.

"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, but this was not the case."

Sirovich speculates that the PSA test is more popular because it is just a simple blood test, while colon cancer screening is more involved. The study provides the first national population-based estimates of rates of screening with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) the blood test for prostate cancer.

Using data from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of over 49,000 men from all 50 states, investigators found 75 percent aged 50 and older reported having undergone PSA testing at least once, and the likelihood of testing increased until age 80. Only 63 percent had undergone colorectal cancer screening.

"More men had been tested for prostate cancer than for colon cancer in all but four states (where the 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, "added Sirovich.

She and VA colleagues Lisa Schwartz, M.D. and Steven Woloshin, M.D., found that less than half the men surveyed were up-to-date on colorectal screenings. Men aged 50 to79 were 15 to
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Contact: Evelyn Beck
evelyn.beck2@med.va.gov
802-296-5163
VA Research Communications Service
18-Mar-2003


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