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September 2018

Men, Discuss Prostate Cancer Screening with Your Doctor

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test checks for levels of this protein in the blood. An elevated PSA level can be a sign of prostate cancer, but it can also be caused by less serious conditions.

Man talking with his healthcare provider

Just because the PSA test is available doesn’t mean that you should receive it. According to a recent recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), men ages 55 to 69 should talk with their healthcare providers about the potential risks and benefits of PSA screening. The USPSTF’s statement is published in JAMA.

The benefits and risks of PSA screening

The USPSTF based its new recommendations on the latest scientific evidence regarding PSA screening. According to the findings, PSA screening can decrease the chance for death from prostate cancer for a small number of men—approximately 1.3 deaths per 1,000 men screened.

Meanwhile, screening can have false-positive results that require more testing. It can also result in overdiagnosis. This occurs when you’re diagnosed with and treated for prostate cancer, but the cancer wouldn’t have caused any problems had it gone undiagnosed. An estimated 20% to 50% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer through screening may be overdiagnosed.

Talk with your healthcare provider

The decision whether to undergo PSA screening is an individual one. If you’re a man between 55 and 69 years old, talk with your healthcare provider about your risk for prostate cancer and whether you should get screened. For men ages 70 and older, the benefits of screening don’t outweigh the risks, the USPSTF says.


Learn more about prostate cancer, including possible ways to prevent it.

Online Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/21/2018
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