WE'VE long been screened on the life saving value of early detection of potentially deadly cancers. 

So when a simple blood test was introduced in 1994 that could detect the possible presence of  prostrate cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among American men, it's not hard to understand why it quickly became popular.

Suddenly, in the decades after approval of the test known as the PSA, for prostate specific antigen, the number of men receiving a diagnosis of prostrate cancer skyrocketed, along with a number undergoing biopsies of the walnut-sized gland between the bladder and penis that produces seminal fluid to nourish sperm.

The goal of screening is to find aggressive cancers early enough to reduce the risk of death, and national health statistics seem to justify the popularity of PSA screening.

Today, 90 percent of prostate cancers are found while the disease is still confined to the gland and its nearby neighbors, when nearly 100 percent of men with the disease survive five or more years.

And indeed, the death from prostrate cancer has dropped by more than half since the PSA was approved as a screening tool by the Food and Drug Administration.

Nonetheless, controversy over true value and and necessity of annual PSA resting for most men has flourished for several reasons.

In many men identified as having prostrate cancer after a PSA screening, the disease is neither aggressive nor likely to kill them before something else does.

In fact, a previously unknown prostate cancer is found at autopsy in more than a third of men who die in their 70s or older from some other cause.

The honor an serving of the latest operational research on Screening for Cancers and Personal Health, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Jane E, Brody.


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