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The European results were based on 162,243 men between 55 and 69 in seven countries. Generally, the men were offered screening every four years or they got none. On average, they were followed for about nine years.
They found that screening lowered the rate of death by 20 percent.
Dr. Fritz Schroder, lead author of the study from the Netherlands' Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, said he believes that the study will show even more lives saved as the men are followed years longer.
The European researchers noted a high risk of overdiagnosis -- the finding and treating of cancers that wouldn't threaten lives. They said 48 additional men would need to be treated to prevent one death from prostate cancer.
"My interpretation of the two studies together is that PSA screening likely does save some lives but does significant more harm," said Dr. Otis Brawley, the American Cancer Society's chief medical officer.
The researchers and others agreed the results bolster advice that screening shouldn't be done in those with a limited life-expectancy. U.S. guidelines issued last year said men over 75 shouldn't be screened; no recommendation was made for younger men but they were advised to discuss the test with their doctor.
What's needed, the researchers said, is a better way to tell which prostate cancers need to be treated.
"When we find prostate cancer, we don't know if it is a killer cancer or what has been termed a toothless lion -- the kind of cancer that men will die with, not of," said the U.S. study's leader, Dr. Gerald Andriole of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He said the tendency is to treat all patients aggressively.
The U.S. study is part of a National Cancer Institute project; the European study was supported mostly by government and health agencies. Some of the researchers report receiving grants and fees from drug makers; one holds a patent for a PSA test.
On the Net:
New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org/
American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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