(AP)--The American Urological Association pulled back Friday from its strong support of prostate cancer screening, saying that the testing should be considered primarily by men aged 55 to 69.
The association had staunchly defended the benefits of screening men with the prostate test, even after a government advisory committee, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, said in 2011 that healthy men should not be screened because far more men would be harmed by unnecessary prostate cancer treatments than would be saved from death.
But in new guidelines issued Friday, the urology association said that routine screening is no longer recommended for men 40 to 54 years old at average risk of getting prostate cancer. Screening is also not recommended for men 70 and older.
The guidelines say screening might be beneficial for men 55 to 69, who have a greater risk of cancer, but even here they do not recommend testing. Instead, the association urges men to discuss the benefits and harms with their doctors. And if they do choose screening, an interval of two years rather than annually would be better.
"It's time to reflect on how we screen men for prostate cancer and take a more selective approach in order to maximize benefit and minimize harms," Dr. H. Ballentine Carter, a professor of urology and oncology at Johns Hopkins University and chairman of the committee that drafted the guidelines, said in a statement Friday.
The urology association's previous recommendation, issued in 2009, was that blood testing for PSA, which stands for prostate-specific antigen, should be offered to men starting at age 40.
When the government advisory task force recommended against screening, the association expressed outrage.
Some prostate cancer experts say the association risked losing credibility had it stuck to its recommendations for widespread screening. The new guidelines, they say, represent a sort of compromise.
The problem with screening is that levels of PSA in the blood can be elevated for reasons having nothing to do with prostate cancer. That leads numerous men to have unnecessary biopsies, which can cause pain and infections.
The task force, citing the results of some clinical trials, said that PSA screening saved few lives but subjects many men to unpleasant side effects.
In its guidelines Friday, the association said that for men 55 to 69, screening would prevent one prostate cancer death for every 1,000 men screened over a decade.