Breaking News in Urology

February 25, 2000
Abstracted from an original story
By Elizabeth Tracey,
MS WebMD Medical News

Deaths From Prostate Cancer Declining
Study Attributes Drop to PSA Screening Test

Feb. 18, 2000 (Baltimore) -- A statistical drop in the rate of deaths from prostate cancer since the early 1990s has been influenced by the widespread use of the PSA screening test, reports a study published in the February issue of the Journal of Urology.

Most of the decline in mortality due to prostate cancer we're seeing currently is due to reductions in the number of men with distant disease [cancer that has spread beyond the prostate gland]," Robert Stephenson, MD, one of the study's co-authors, tells WebMD. Stephenson is a professor of surgery at the University of Utah College of Medicine. "We're diagnosing [it] at earlier stages, and this seems to be having an effect on mortality."

Stephenson and a colleague, Ray Merrill of Brigham Young University, examined data on prostate cancer incidence and mortality from a large database administered by the National Cancer Institute, called the SEER Program. The program has been collecting cancer data since 1973.

Statistical analysis reveals that the reported prostate cancer mortality rates increased from 1988 through 1992, then decreased. "What happened is that with the widespread use of PSA in the late 1980s, we detected many more cases of prostate cancer than we had before," Stephenson says. "In 1992, detection peaked, and now we're back to levels similar to what we saw before PSA."

The official position of the American Urological Association on PSA testing
was recently the subject of a "Best Practice Policy"

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