Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rising prostate cancer rate seen in U.S. servicemen

By Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The rate of prostate cancer among active-duty U.S. Air Force members has been several times higher in recent years than it was 20 years ago, a new study finds.

Researchers believe that the trend is not a sign of any increase in servicemen's actual risk of the cancer. Instead, they think that wider use of prostate cancer screening may be catching some early cancers that once went undetected.

That would match the pattern seen among U.S. men generally. After PSA blood tests came into use for prostate cancer screening in the mid-1990s, the number of men diagnosed with the cancer rose.

However, PSA screening is controversial. Because prostate cancer is often slow-growing and may never progress far enough to threaten a man's life, finding and treating early tumors can do more harm than good for some. Treatment side effects include impotence and incontinence.

It's estimated that such "low risk" tumors account for 40 to 50 percent of prostate cancers diagnosed among U.S. men.

In the new study, researchers found that between 2005 and 2008, the rate of prostate cancer among white active-duty Air Force servicemen was three times higher than it was between 1991 and 1994.

Among African Americans, the rate rose 11-fold, according to findings published in the Journal of Urology.

The absolute numbers were still low. Among white men in recent years, the rate was about 26 cases per 100,000 servicemen per year; among black men, the rate was 39 per 100,000.

But both of those rates were higher than what was seen during the same period among U.S. men in general in the same 35 to 64 age range. Most of the cancers in servicemen --62 percent -- were low risk, which is also higher than the U.S. norm.

The difference is probably because Air Force members are more likely to be screened for prostate cancer, according to researcher Dr. Marc Goldhagen, of the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine in San Antonio.


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