I've been very concerned for many years about the overuse of PSA screening for men, so I'm surprised that I was not aware of this op-ed in the New York Times back on March 10:
Richard Ablin, research professor of immunology and pathology at the University of Arizona, hammered away at what he calls the "great prostate mistake," routine screening for prostate cancer that costs $3B annually in the US and that ends up leaving 47 men "who can no longer function sexually or stay out of the bathroom for long" for each 1 man who might (under the most optimistic study yet published) have been saved from death by having had the test. (Another equally good study says that no men are saved from dying as a result of being tested.)
You might wonder what gives Prof. Ablin a right to sound off about the PSA test. Simple--he is credited as the discoverer of PSA back in 1970.
Ablin notes that despite recent major studies showing the lack of benefit from PSA screening, medical sopcieties and patient advocacy groups have been slow to change their advice on having the test. "So why is it still used? Because drug companies continue peddling the tests.... I never dreamed that my discovery of four decades ago would lead to such a profit-driven public health disaster."
So now it appears that I am doubly uninformed--I not only missed Ablin's op-ed, I also did not happen to notice that drug companies are pushing PSA testing. I don't know whether drug companies actually sell PSA test kits to labs or (more likely in my view) drug companies know that they'll sell a lot of prostate cancer drugs so long as men are stampeded into having themselves screened. (As I posted about earlier in describing how drug companies who want to sell osteoporosis drugs find it to their benefit to push bone mineral density tests: http://brodyhooked.blogspot.com/2009/12/npr-how-osteopenia-became-treatable.html.) Perhaps some of the kind people who put comments on this blog know the answers and can advise us.