My offer for a public debate was accepted after I co-published opposing viewpoints about the high rates of over-diagnosis and over-treatment of early stage prostate cancer with leading urologist Professor Tony Costello in a Melbourne newspaper last year.
The debate took place at a Melbourne conference on prostate cancer last week. It received wide coverage in newspapers – here, here and here, television radio, and online. All of this is useful and important because it helps stimulate the very important debate about widespread PSA screening.
Prostate specific antigen (PSA) is an enzyme secreted in large amounts by normal as well as cancerous prostate cells. Only small amounts of PSA leak into circulation from a normal prostate, but this increases with any prostatic disease, benign or malignant.
PSA concentration is expressed as a number and its discovery in 1983 led to it being used as a screening blood test for early prostate cancer. A level below four is considered normal and men with abnormal results are usually sent for biopsies. It has been widely performed in Australian men for over ten years as part of a general health check but its ability to save lives is now being assessed and tested.