What's Wrong With Chemoprevention of Prostate Cancer?

American Journal of Bioethics 11 (12):21-25 (2011)

Abstract

When prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing was introduced, proponents expected it to cut prostate-cancer mortality and did not expect it to unleash an epidemic of unnecessary treatments. Now that evidence of a mortality benefit remains unclear while evidence of overtreatment in undeniable, there is understandable interest in reducing the human costs of the PSA system. Two related drugs, finasteride and dutasteride, both proven to reduce the incidence of prostate cancer and the ?risk of diagnosis,? are being promoted accordingly. However, if not for the flaws of the PSA system the use of these drugs for purposes of prevention would lose its rationale. Not only are the drugs in this sense dependent on a faulty system, but their own mortality benefits are as speculative as PSA's?in addition to which, they introduce new risks.

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