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Prostate tests 'not worth risk'

PSA screening for prostate cancer used by half of men older than 40 isn't worth the risk of side effects from unnecessary treatment and shouldn't be used to diagnose the disease, according to experts.

Scientific studies suggest the number of deaths avoided by screening are "very small" compared with risks from treatment that can include infections, incontinence, erectile dysfunction and death, the US Preventive Services Task Force said. The panel kept its recommendation from October after some doctors and patient groups said discouraging the tests would cost lives.

Prostate cancer was diagnosed in about 250,000 patients last year and caused 33,700 deaths, the task force said. It is the second-most common malignancy among American men.

The guidelines may affect whether insurers pay for blood tests measuring PSA, a protein associated at high levels with the disease.

"Many men are being subjected to the harms of treatment of prostate cancer that will never become symptomatic," the panel wrote.

"There is convincing evidence that PSA-based screening for prostate cancer results in considerable overtreatment."

Symptoms of the disease include problems urinating, frequent or painful urination, painful ejaculation or a persistent ache in the back, hips or pelvis.