Researchers have found a widely used blood test conducted to spot prostate cancer misses many tumors.
The researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center studied nearly 3,000 men who were told by their doctors that they had nothing to worry about because their scores on the popular prostate-specific antigen test fell within the "normal" range.
The study found 15 percent of them actually had tumors.
The team's work is described in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
"It's clear from our findings that there are many men with what is considered a normal PSA who are harboring cancer, and in some cases it may be aggressive prostate cancer," said Ian M. Thompson of the University of Texas, reports washingtontimes.com
According to nydailynews.com prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among men in the U.S. The PSA test works by checking for a protein secreted by the prostate, a walnut-sized gland at the base of the bladder.
In an accompanying editorial in the Journal of Medicine, Dr. Ballentine Carter of the Johns Hopkins medical school in Baltimore argued that lowering the PSA benchmark could do more harm and good.
"The problem with doing biopsies on men with very low PSAs is that, the lower you go, the greater the chance that you're going to identify someone who has a cancer that would never have caused harm," Carter told the Daily News.