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OPINION

Outside Panel Backs Prostate Test Advisory

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In the wake of a government panel’s advice last week that healthy men should no longer be routinely screened for prostate cancer, an independent team of experts sought to explain, in an assessment of the scientific evidence in a prominent medical journal, why a simple blood test generally results in more harm than good.

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The review, published online Friday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, provides the scientific justification for the United States Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendation that men should no longer have an annual P.S.A. — prostate-specific antigen — test. The task force’s recommendation, which was supposed to come out after the review’s publication, leaked out on Thursday.

Members of the task force, who foresaw that their recommendation would be greeted with skepticism and outright opposition from some doctor groups, hired experts at Oregon Health Science University to conduct a thorough review of the evidence.

The Oregon team identified five clinical trials that sought to assess whether men who got routine P.S.A. tests were less likely to die of prostate cancer than those who did not get the testing. Three of the trials were weak, said Dr. Roger Chou, an associate professor of medicine at the university. “They were older studies with significant flaws, although none of them found any benefit to screening,” he said.

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