Younger Men and Prostate Cancer

In guidelines newly proposed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, younger men are being encouraged to talk with their doctor about prostate cancer screening. This is an abrupt turnaround from the group, which just five years ago opposed screening for men in this age group.

More than 25,000 men died of prostate cancer in 2016, and each year, almost 180,000 are diagnosed with the disease. Prostate cancer very often produces no symptoms, and the only way a man will know if he is in danger is as a result of a screening.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force had gone on record in 2012 as opposing screening for most men ages 55 to 69. Their rationale was that false positives led to additional tests or biopsies, or that men who were informed of very slow-growing tumors were still inclined to submit for surgery or radiation therapy. These treatments, they argued, left men with a lower quality of life than if they had just waited the cancer out.

Now the group still falls short of urging men to be screened, but they are recommending that men talk with their doctors about whether to have their blood tested. The group's turnabout is based upon new research completed these last five years, they say.

The USPSTF is not changing their prostate cancer screening guidelines for men aged 70 and over, however. They continue to oppose it because of the very slow-growing nature of prostate cancer.

The blood test in question screens for the prostate-specific antigen. PSA is present in small quantities in the blood of men wth healthy prostates, but exists at elevated levels in the presence of prostate cancer or other prostate disorders, such as prostatitis or benign prostatic hyperplasia.