May 16, 2022 - Health

Study: Benefits of prostate cancer blood test outweigh harms

An image of a prostate which was biopsied for prostate cancer.
An image of a prostate which was biopsied for prostate cancer. Photo: Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The blood test used to detect prostate cancer may be more effective at preventing deaths — particularly among Black men — than previously thought, according to a study in NEJM Evidence.

Why it matters: Prostate cancer has one of the most pronounced disparities by race of any cancer, and Black men have historically been underrepresented in trials despite having double the risk of dying from it, the authors write.

Zoom in: Previous studies found prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening prevented one death for every 23 men diagnosed, resulting in overdiagnoses and overtreatment.

  • In this study, led by Weill Cornell Medicine, researchers took another look, using additional data and estimates for men of all races.
  • They ultimately calculated one death was prevented for every 11 to 14 men of all races diagnosed using PSA screening.
  • For Black men, screening prevented one death for every eight to 12 men diagnosed and one death for every five to nine men treated for prostate cancer, they found.

Side note: Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation is among the study's funders. Bristol Myers Squibb has prostate cancer drugs under development,

The bottom line: "These data should prompt policymakers to reconsider the utility of PSA-based prostate cancer screening, particularly for Black men," the authors wrote.

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