Harvard Health Letter

Should you get a prostate screening?

New evidence shows screenings are down across the country.

Fewer men are being screened for prostate cancer using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, according to a study in the June 2014 Journal of Urology. The decrease follows the 2012 recommendation against routine PSA screenings from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

The PSA aims to check seemingly healthy men for hidden cancer at an early stage, when (hypothetically) it may be more curable. However, research shows that the PSA prevents only about one cancer death for every 1,000 men screened. And sometimes men are diagnosed and treated for cancers that would not have made them sick or shortened their lives. For such men, the treatment—which can produce side effects—is worse than the disease.

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