Harvard Men's Health Watch

European PSA testing trial update offers little guidance to American men

The latest results from the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC) found a lower risk of death due to prostate cancer in men screened using the PSA test, compared to men who were not screened. But unfortunately this finding does not offer clear guidance to American men trying to figure out what the great PSA testing debate means for them.

The current definitive trial for U.S. men is the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial, which involved about 77,000 men aged 55 to 74. It found no clear benefit to PSA screening, but plenty of potential harms. These included repeated biopsies, the psychological impact of a cancer diagnosis, the side effects of treatment, and overdiagnosis of potentially unimportant cancers.

The ERSPC was also a large study, involving more than 162,000 men aged 55 to 69 in seven countries. However, important differences in how the European men were screened and treated mean its findings don't apply well to the American population.

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