KTTU "In Focus," Sunday, 7/10/11, 10:30 AM & KMSB "Fox-11 Forum," Sunday, 7/17/11, 7:30 AM

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By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter

Host Bob Lee interviews Dr. Richard Ablin, research professor, U of A Department of  Pathology, U of A College of Medicine. Ablin and his colleagues discovered the Prostate Specific Antigen in 1970.  Since that time it has been widely used as a “test” or “screening method” to find prostate cancer in men.

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1994, the P.S.A. test is the most commonly used tool for detecting prostate cancer.  Ablin says 30 million American men annually undergo PSA test and he says that’s led to a hugely expensive public health disaster. He says as Congress searches for ways to cut costs in our health care system, a significant savings could come from changing the way the antigen is used to screen for prostate cancer. He says American men have a 16 percent lifetime chance of receiving a diagnosis of prostate cancer, but only a 3 percent chance of dying from it. He says that’s because the majority of prostate cancers grow slowly. He says men lucky enough to reach old age are much more likely to die with prostate cancer than to die of it.

Ablin says the PSA test result numbers may be misleading…there may be cancer, or there may not.  He says a digital rectal exam and when appropriate, a biopsy, are the best way to detect prostate cancer.  He says a PSA test is useful after a man has had prostate cancer treatment because an increase in the numbers might indicate the cancer has returned.  

Ablin says what is really needed, and what researchers should focus on, is a way of determining which prostate cancers are slow growing and are most likely remain in the prostate and cancers that have, or are about to, metastasize.  He says the fast-growing tumors are the bad ones and should be treated.  He says right now there are way too many unnecessary and costly treatments being administered.  Why is it still used? He says it’s because drug companies continue peddling the tests and advocacy groups push “prostate cancer awareness” by encouraging men to get screened.