Health Buzz: Study Finds PSA Test Reduces Cancer Deaths

Test to predict menopause; 2 ways to lower your child's cholesterol without statins.

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Study Finds PSA Test Reduces Cancer Deaths

New evidence from a study of 20,000 participants in Sweden finds reason to screen middle-aged men for prostate cancer. The PSA test has faced much criticism, with experts claiming that it is overused, and leads to overdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment. According to the new findings, however, the PSA test may reduce deaths from the disease by almost half, the researchers wrote in The Lancet Oncology.

In November, U.S. News contributor Ford Fox wrote about the controversy over PSA screening. From the latest research, he gathered seven reasons why urologists are encouraging men of any age who expect to live at least another 10 years to think hard about getting a PSA test. [Read more: The PSA Test: 7 Reasons It Still Matters.]

  • Can This Test Be Saved? Improving on PSA for Prostate Cancer Screening
  • PSA Testing: What Should Men Do?
  • Test to Predict Menopause: Helpful or a Lot of Hype?

    An experimental test that appears to predict the age a woman will hit menopause decades in advance has generated much enthusiasm at the Rome meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz reports. Much of the hubbub surrounds the test's implications: If a woman knew when her childbearing years would end, she could take better charge of her reproductive destiny. Perhaps she would get pregnant earlier—or freeze her eggs in her late 20s—if she knew menopause was going to strike at, say, 41 instead of the average age of 51. Or she might stay off the mommy track a bit longer if her fertility was going to last until 57.

    At the moment, that's all still fantasy. The menopause test, which measures levels of anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) that controls the development of follicles in the ovaries, has been examined in just a handful of small studies. Only 63 women in the latest study presented at the meeting reached menopause during the study's 12-year run, Kotz writes.

    Yet the researchers contend that their findings suggest that a low AMH level of 2.8 nanograms per milliliter in a 20-year-old means she'll hit menopause by age 38. "We believe that our estimates...are of sufficient validity to guide medical practitioners in their day-to-day practice, so that they can help women with their family planning," said study leader Ramezani Tehrani, an associate professor of endocrinology at Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran, in a statement accompanying the study. Other experts, however, say the menopause test is at least three or four years away from being used in clinical practice. That's partly because of some uncertainty in determining standard levels of this hormone and whether these levels vary from woman to woman. For example, no one knows yet whether levels of AMH differ among racial and ethnic populations. Perhaps a low level in an Iranian woman is in the normal range for an African-American. Previous studies have also shown that obese women tend to have lower levels than women of normal weight, though they may not go into menopause any earlier. [Read more: Test to Predict Menopause: Helpful or a Lot of Hype?]

    • Study Points to Symptoms of Male Menopause
    • How to Safely Combat Menopause Symptoms With Hormone Therapy
    • 2 Ways to Lower Your Child's Cholesterol Without Statins

      Parents should think twice before starting children on statin drugs to lower cholesterol, according to a new report on children and statins from Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs. That's because the powerful drugs have not been extensively tested in children, and they can have serious side effects, especially muscle pain, U.S. News contributor Nancy Shute reports. Instead, parents should consider the two best ways to lower cholesterol without drugs: more exercise, and a healthy diet.

      With about 20 percent of children now considered obese and at risk of high cholesterol, many more parents will be facing the question of whether they should put children on statins, an idea that would have seemed odd just a few years ago. In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics said that statins could be used for children ages 8 and above, and that 2-year-olds should be given cholesterol tests if they appear to be at risk of obesity. In 2009, doctors wrote children 2.3 million prescriptions for statins. [Read more: 2 Ways to Lower Your Child's Cholesterol Without Statins.]