DoH reviews case for PSA screening

Study shows PSA tests cut deaths by 20% as case for screening grows.

The DoH is to examine latest research which found that PSA-based screening can cut the number of deaths from prostate cancer by 20 per cent, in a move that could pave the way for a national screening programme.

Currently, there is insufficient evidence to support a screening programme for prostate cancer as the harms of PSA testing appear to outweigh the benefits.

England's chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson acknowledged in his annual report last week the need for further research into the use of PSA testing.

For this latest study, a team of European researchers randomly assigned 182,000 men aged 50-74 to receive either PSA testing every four years or no screening at all.

The nine-year study found screening nearly doubled the rate of detection of prostate cancer. It was detected in 8.2 per cent of men in the screening group and 4.8 per cent in the control group.

Men who were screened lowered their risk of death from the cancer by 20 per cent.

The European Randomised Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC) researchers concluded that 'the number needed to screen in our study is similar to that in studies of mammographic screening for breast cancer and FOB testing for colorectal cancer'.

Dr Anne Mackie, director of programmes at the UK National Screening Committee (NSC), confirmed that they had been asked by ministers to review their advice on screening for prostate cancer following publication of the ERSPC study.

'The UK NSC will have a brief discussion on this topic at its next meeting, before formally reviewing the published data on 23 June.

'After reviewing the evidence the committee will decide whether it is sufficient for us to set up a pilot on prostate cancer screening.'

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, added: 'Despite the risks of unnecessary treatment, more men will want a PSA test as a result of this study. The government should begin a feasibility study to assess the implications for screening and treatment.'

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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