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BLOOD TEST OK'D IN CHECKING FOR CANCER OF PROSTATE

A blood test that helps diagnose prostate cancer has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Since 1986, the PSA (prostate specific antigen) test has been used to monitor men who already had prostate tumors.The FDA's new ruling allows physicians to use PSAs to help diagnose new cases of the disease in men over age 50. FDA Commissioner David Kessler stressed that PSAs must be used in conjuction with rectal examinations.

The FDA's approval comes after a study of 6,300 men showed that the most accurate prostate cancer diagnoses were provided by dual procedures that included PSAs and rectal examinations. The double test was far better than only PSAs or only rectal exams.

Prostate tumors are the second most common cancer in men, exceeded only by skin cancer. Approximately 13 percent of American men will be diagnosed with the disease, most of them after age 65. Most cases will not become life-threatening. - Don Kirkman