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Fewer Doctors Screening Older Men for Prostate Cancer, Study Finds

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Despite the controversy regarding whether most men should be screened for prostate cancer, many doctors appear to agree that older men do not need to be screened, a new study suggests.

Between 2007 and 2009, the rate of early stage prostate cancer among men ages 75 and older decreased by 25 percent, the study found.

The decrease occurred shortly after an influential organization, known as the U.S. Services Preventive Task Force, recommended against screening men of this age group for the disease.

The findings suggest the recommendations led to a decline in prostate cancer screening rates among older men, which in turn, led to a decrease in the number of prostate cancer cases found in this group, the researchers said.

In 2011, the task force also recommended not to screen younger men for prostate cancer unless they were at high-risk for the disease, such as those men with relatives who developed cancer at a young age.

Given that the potential harms of screening — which include false alarms, increased worry and treatment for side effects, such as erectile dysfunction — outweigh the benefits, "we hope to see a similar decrease in early prostate cancer incidence in young men," Dr. Mitchell Katz, deputy editor of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, in which the study appears, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study.

The findings are based on information from more than 254,000 prostate cancer cases in the United States.

While the rate of prostate cancer declined among all men ages 30 to 74 between 2007 and 2009, the decrease was smaller for men younger than 75. The rate dropped by 15 percent among men ages 65 to 74, and 11 percent among men ages 30 to 64.

Many experts believe a practice known as active surveillance could reduce the harms of prostate cancer screening. Under active surveillance, patients with low-risk prostate cancer receive regular follow-up testing, and are treated only if their cancer becomes more aggressive.

The new study, conducted by David Howard of Emory University in Atlanta, is published today (July 23) in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

Pass it on:  Prostate cancer screening in men ages 75 and older appears to have declined.

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Live Science Staff
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