Today the US Preventive Services Task Force — an advisory panel of cancer experts — released a new recommendation that men should no longer routinely undergo a PSA blood test to screen for prostate cancer. The federally appointed panel concluded that the harms of unnecessary surgeries or other interventions outweigh the benefits of the test.
The Task Force released the recommendation in today’s issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
The American Urological Society is one organization saying the Task Force is taking an extreme position, and that regular PSA screening for men 50 and over saves lives.
While the back-and-forth continues, we at AICR believe that the decision of how often to screen for this and other cancers remains a personal one, and one that is best decided in consultation with one’s healthcare provider.
But every time a new controversy flares over screening guidelines, they threaten to steal focus from the crucial fact that there’s much more to cancer prevention than tests and checkups.
In the case of prostate cancer, for example, the AICR/WCRF expert report and its continuous updates found strong evidence that lifestyle plays a role in lowering risk — particularly a diet high in plant foods that contain lycopene, like tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit and asparagus. Foods that contain selenium (such as oatmeal and Brazil nuts) have also been linked to lower risk for prostate cancer.
Testing plays a key role, and we all must make decisions about how to apply screening guidelines to our lives, informed by discussion with a trusted physician. But living a cancer-preventive lifestyle — eating a plant-based diet, being active at least 30 minutes a day and staying at a healthy weight — could prevent over 27,000 prostate cancers every year in the US, and hundreds of thousands of additional cancers as well.
That advice, at least, remains as uncontroversial as it was yesterday.