The recommendations have changed twice in recent years, causing confusion and worry. Here’s what men need to know.
By Emcara Health Editors
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer for women, right after skin cancer. To catch it early, women should get a mammogram every year starting at age 40.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer for men, right after skin cancer. However, the advice for catching it early is still changing. In fact, the government has changed its recommendations for prostate cancer screening twice in the past ten years.
Here's what men should remember: If you're 55 or older, it’s important to talk to your doctor or Emcara Health care team about your risk of prostate cancer. Some men should get screened, while others may need to take a wait-and-see approach. To understand why, let’s quickly look at how we reached this point.
In 2023, there will be about 288,300 new cases and 34,000 deaths from prostate cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Over the past 20 years, prostate cancer has caused the death of nearly 618,000 Americans. However, it is also one of the most treatable cancers. The 5-year survival rate is 97.1 percent, and it accounts for only 5.7 percent of all cancer deaths each year.
Like any cancer, early detection is very important. However, the recommendations for screening for prostate cancer have changed over the years.
In the 1990s, the use of a blood test called prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening became popular. This led to more cases of prostate cancer being detected before it spread to other parts of the body, known as nonmetastatic cancer. And because cases were being caught sooner, PSA screening also led to fewer diagnoses of prostate cancer that had already begun to spread, known as metastatic. This type of cancer has a low survival rate.
But there were downsides to widespread PSA screening. It caused more anxiety and uncertainty among patients and created the need for more biopsies—a minor surgery that doctors use to confirm if cancer cells are present. These additional biopsies, along with more men starting prostate cancer treatment, increased the risk of complications.
After analyzing data, a group of primary care doctors called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended against regular PSA screenings for men aged 50 and over in 2012.
However, after following this recommendation, cases of nonmetastatic prostate cancer dropped, while cases of metastatic prostate cancer unexpectedly rose. Some researchers argued that the lower screening rates allowed the cancer to progress undetected.
In 2018, the USPSTF changed its advice and now suggests that men aged 55 to 69 discuss PSA screenings with their doctors. However, for men aged 70 and over, both the USPSTF and the CDC still recommend against PSA screenings.
Physicians agree that individual risk factors should weigh heavily in the decision to get screened or not.
Being 50 years old or older increases the risk of prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society says that Black men have a 70 percent higher rate of prostate cancer compared to other racial and ethnic groups, and they are also two to four times more likely to die from it.
Having a family history of prostate cancer also raises the risk. People from North America, Northwestern Europe, the Caribbean, and Australia are also more likely to get the disease.
Men can lower their risk by making changes to their diet and exercise routines. The Prostate Cancer Foundation suggests that daily exercise, especially activities like fast walking, can reduce the risk by decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress.
Eating more fruits and vegetables can help fight cancer-causing substances in the body. Switching from red and processed meats to fish and plant-based proteins may also help lower the risk.
Learn how Emcara Health can help protect you from prostate and other cancers. Call 1-800-728-0901 from 9 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday.