Study critical of treating prostate cancer

Wednesday, July 3, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Many men older than 60 are receiving unnecessary surgery and other treatments for prostate cancer even though the disease is unlikely to progress far enough to cause health problems, according to one analysis.

A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute examined the use of a blood test to find prostate cancer in a group of patients 60-84 over a 10-year period. It concluded that 29 percent to 44 percent of the men were "over-diagnosed."

Those patients may have received surgery or radiation treatment for prostate cancer that would never have progressed so far that it threatened their health, said Ruth Etzioni, a biostatistician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

For men diagnosed from the PSA test, up to 30 percent may have been treated unnecessarily, said Etzioni.

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