So if you read Randy Dotinga’s account this week of the results of his genome test, you know that he has a higher-than-average risk for prostate cancer. This piece of bad news had Dotinga wondering what he should do from here on out.

I could get screened more often for prostate cancer and take a blood test designed to detect signs of trouble. But doctors question the value of the commonly used prostate-specific antigen test, and some think men should actually avoid it because it’s can lead to unnecessary treatment. Not to mention stress.

“It might not be good for everyone to undergo early screening for prostate cancer, which might needlessly raise a lot of anxiety,” said the University of Pittsburgh’s Weeks.

I might get these tests anyway just to feel safe. But if lots of other men do the same thing, we could be spending a lot of money for little benefit. And that could put more pressure on the healthcare system.

Well Randy, according to a story today in The New York Times, you might just want to avoid the tests altogether. Two large studies have confirmed that they “save few lives and lead to risky and unnecessary treatments.”

Here is an excerpt:

The PSA test, which measures a protein released by prostate cells, does what it is supposed to do — indicates a cancer might be present, leading to biopsies to determine if there is a tumor. But it has been difficult to know whether finding prostate cancer early saves lives. Most of the cancers tend to grow very slowly and are never a threat and, with the faster-growing ones, even early diagnosis might be too late.

The studies — one in Europe and the other in the United States — are “some of the most important studies in the history of men’s health,” said Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

In the European study, 48 men were told they had prostate cancer and needlessly treated for it for every man whose death was prevented within a decade after having had a PSA test.

DAVID WASHBURN

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