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Nerys Hairon reports on the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in FLorida where important new data was presented on cancer screening

PSA screening does cut mortality from prostate cancer, a controversial study concludes.

Researchers found a 'strongly positive and highly significant' relationship between the rate of PSA testing in different regions of Quebec and reductions in prostate cancer deaths.

A 10 per cent increase in the rate of PSA testing more than doubled the annual fall in mortality, the study found. The researchers urged GPs to include the findings in discussions with patients over the risks and benefits of testing.

Study leader Dr Bernard Candas, researcher at the Oncology and Molecular Endo-crinology Research Center in Laval, Quebec, said: 'Metastatic prostate cancer should be avoidable through screening, so more and more patients ­ the vast majority ­ should be treated at an early stage.'

GPs said the Department of Health would have to examine the results, but cautioned that there were significant side-

effects associated with biopsy and treatment.

The researchers analysed PSA screening and prostate cancer deaths across Quebec over 11 years. Testing rates varied from 28 to 40 per cent and closely correlated to falls in mortality, which averaged 3.1 per cent per year. Each 10 per cent increase in screening rate reduced annual mortality by a further 4 per cent.

A related case-control an-alysis of 46,486 patients, published in this month's Prostate, found PSA screening reduced mortality by 62 per cent.

Dr James Kingsland, a member of the national cancer screening programme's scientific reference group for prostate cancer, said he would raise the study at the next meeting, but did not expect it to recommend GPs use PSA as a routine screening test.

Dr Kingsland, a GP in Wallasey, Merseyside, said: '[The study] proves there is some correlation between PSA, picking up cancer earlier and decreasing deaths, but it's not saying we should be using it as a screening tool.'

But Dr Murray Freeman, a cancer lead and a GP in Rock Ferry, Merseyside, said: 'If the figures are statistically significant we would have to think about whether population screening is the way forward.'

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