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Extended follow-up of the PLCO trial over a median of 15 years continues to indicate nor eduction in prostate cancer mortality for the intervention arm versus the control arm. Because of the high rate of control-arm PSA testing, this finding can be viewed as showing no benefit of organized screening versus opportunistic screening.

However, the results aren’t so cut and dry.

It certainly can help with early detection in order to start treating prostate cancer sooner rather than later, and it’s always a good idea to have regular physical exams with a medical professional. However, there are other ways you can ensure your prostate health remains in top working order.

The waters only get muddier when looking at the PLCO trial itself, which did not separate men who had prostate exam screenings from those who didn’t. Instead, the control group was only not mandated to get prostate exams, and many in the control group did receive screenings. Talk about a mess.

What gives? Let’s take a look.

So what does the science say about prostate exam results? That’s the tricky part. The research out there is conflicting and has its issues, with one high-profile study concluding prostate exams do little to reduce prostate cancer mortality, while another found significant evidence that a prostate exam does, in fact, help reduce the mortality rate.

Widespread prostate exam screening in the late 1980s and continues today, but, as the Annals of Internal Medicine notes, it wasn’t until 2009 that seemingly strong research on prostate exam effectiveness was published in the New England Journal of Medicine . Examining two different studies, the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCO) and European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC), researchers found conflicting, contradictory results: ( 2 )

Prostate health is of the utmost importance for men, particularly men over the age of 40. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), prostate cancer is second most common cancer in American men, trailing only skin cancer. ( 1 ) This is why so many men are encouraged to get a prostate exam, but recent research calls into question just how effective prostate exam screening is.

When it all boils down, it appears both studies and even the further analyses were flawed in both execution and actual data. This is problematic given that, according to the ACS, it’s estimated there will be more than 161,000 new cases of prostate cancer in the U.S. and nearly 27,000 prostate cancer deaths in 2017. Furthermore, about one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.