Prostate cancer test is too risky, say doctors

  • @robhastings

Doctors have warned against introducing a national screening programme for prostate cancer, because of concerns that the risks posed by the test are greater than its potential benefits.

Experts on the UK National Screening Committee recommended that the PSA blood test should not be introduced on a systematic basis as it is untrustworthy.

It has been claimed that the test leads to over-diagnosis as it cannot distinguish between cancer and other conditions, such as a benign enlargement of the prostate or a urinary infection. Nor is a negative result fully reliable, as it can miss a tumour and dangerously provide a false reassurance.

Dr Anne Mackie, the screening committee director, said: "I am confident that this is the right decision. This advice is based on the latest research evidence, and informed by a range of groups, including healthcare professionals and patient representatives. The NHS Cancer Screening Programme will continue to provide advice to help men who are concerned about prostate cancer to make informed decisions about their health."

However, John Neate, chief executive of the Prostate Cancer Charity, called the announcement "extremely disappointing". He argued that "for some men with aggressive prostate cancer, but no symptoms, the PSA test will be the only early indicator of the cancer at a time when effective treatment can be offered".