Prostate and colorectal cancer each kill approximately 30,000
men in the U.S. every year. However, colorectal cancer accounts
for a larger majority of premature deaths, and regarding screening
for the two cancers, only colorectal cancer screening has been
proven through thorough research to reduce the risk of death,
according to a recent study appearing in the Journal of the
American Medical Association. If medical practice guidelines
are based on research, colorectal cancer screening should be
much more common than screening for prostate cancer.
Utilizing a 2001 annual health survey of adults in all 50
states conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
information was gathered on 50,000 men age 40 or older. Researchers
focused on the percentage of men screened for prostate cancer
using PSA (prostate-specific antigen) testing and colorectal
cancer using fecal occult blood testing (FOBT), colonoscopy
Men were more likely to have ever been screened for prostate
cancer than colorectal cancer (75% vs. 63% of subjects, respectively)
in those age 50 or older. Subjects of all ages also more commonly
had received PSA screening in the past year than FOBT in the
past year or colonoscopy/sigmoidoscopy in the last five years.
Men were significantly more likely to be up-to-date on prostate-cancer
testing than colorectal-cancer testing in 27 states, compared
to being more up-to-date on colorectal screening in only one
Men may be more willing to submit to a simple PSA blood test
because it is less convenient and more invasive than testing
required to detect colorectal cancer. Men also may perceive
their risk of death from prostate cancer to be higher because
they know others suffering from the condition. Consider the
alternative to avoiding colorectal cancer screening, however:
You may be allowing a cancer to develop until it is no longer
treatable. Talk to your doctor for more information about
the importance of screening for bowel cancers.
Sirovich BE, Schwartz LM, Woloshin S. Screening men for prostate
and colorectal cancer in the United States: Does practice
reflect the evidence? Journal of the American Medical Association
2003:289(11), pp. 1414-1420.
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