Screening for breast and prostate cancer may be a waste of time and money, and is causing a great deal of unnecessary worry and treatment among people who have been wrongly diagnosed.
Despite 20 years of screening, deaths from the two diseases have not declined; instead, cancer rates are higher, more patients are being treated, and the incidence of aggressive and late-stage cancers has not gone down, say researchers from the University of California, San Francisco.
While screening provides some benefit, it does not outweigh the costs, and the wrong diagnoses and over-treatment, says Laura Esserman, professor of surgery and radiology.
Instead, medicine needs to develop ways of identifying those people who are most at risk instead of having a catch-all approach that doesn't seem to be working.
(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2009; 302: 1685-92).