Elderly, Ill Men Get Unneeded Prostate Cancer Screenings

By Steve Tokar, UCSF News Services | November 14, 2006

A study of almost 600,000 men aged 70 and older reveals that 56 percent had a routine prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening, a blood test for prostate cancer, even though no treatment guidelines recommend PSA screening for men of that age.

Screening rates declined with age, but overall health had little or no impact on whether a PSA test was performed.

In fact, says lead author Louise C. Walter, MD, a staff physician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, health status had so little bearing on the decision to screen that 36 percent of men age 85 and older who were in poor health and at high risk of dying within a year were given the test.

"Not a single professional organization, physicians' group, or prostate cancer advocacy group advocates PSA screening for frail, elderly men, and yet we are doing it," says Walter, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

The study appears in the November 15, 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Read more at Steve Tokar, UCSF News Services