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Prostate Cancer Deaths Rise Despite Better Detection With AM-CDC-Prostate Cancer-Box

June 12, 1992

ATLANTA (AP) _ Deaths from prostate cancer are increasing despite improved methods of early detection, federal health officials reported Thursday.

The increased death rate raises questions about the benefits of newer and more expensive tests to detect the disease, said Ron Aubert, an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control.

″There is clearly something going on. It’s becoming a growing public health problem,″ Aubert said. ″But there are studies that are needed to evaluate the benefit of screening and early detection.

″We’re not to the point that organizations feel comfortable making recommendations that people get these early screenings, as they have with breast and cervical cancer.″

The Atlanta-based CDC reported Thursday that deaths from prostate cancer increased 7.5 percent among white men and 5.9 percent among black men from 1980 to 1988, the latest year for which figures were available.

In 1980, about 17.3 white men per 100,000 - or a total of 19,095 - died from prostate cancer. The rate reached 18.6 in 1988, when the total was 24,175.

For blacks, the rate was 37.4 deaths per 100,000 in 1980 - a total of 3,670 - and 39.6 in 1988 - a total of 4,581.

The American Cancer Society predicts 34,000 deaths in the United States this year from prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer generally occurs in men over age 50. The risk increases with age.

Doctors generally check for tumors with a rectal examination, which is included in the price of a routine physical.

But some men opt for more expensive tests. The prostate specific antigen test, about $75, screens blood samples for elevated levels of an antigen associated with the prostate, but critics warn that the levels can increase for reasons other than tumors.

Also available is ultrasound, in which sound waves can detect small tumors. It generally costs more than $100.

″Despite the improved effectiveness of (all three tests) to detect disease at earlier stages, these methods have not yet been associated with a reduction in prostate cancer mortality,″ the CDC report said.

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