Men who live alone fall short on prostate screening

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Men at higher-than-average risk of prostate cancer are more likely to seek regular screening if they are married or live with a significant other, a new study finds.

Researchers found that among more than 2,400 men ages 40 to 79, those with a family history of prostate cancer were more likely to be regularly screened for the disease over a decade. However, a closer look at the data showed that this was only true of men who lived with a wife or partner.

In fact, higher-risk men who lived alone were less apt to seek screening than those with no family history of prostate cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends that men with a family history of prostate cancer get screened for the disease starting at age 45. However, some studies have found that these men are no more likely to seek screening than those without a family history.

These latest findings, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, suggest that partners play a big role in getting men to submit to prostate cancer screening.

“In terms of motivating people to get screened, there may be benefit in targeting wives or significant others as well as men,” lead researcher Lauren P. Wallner, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, noted in a written statement.

The results are based on 2,447 white U.S. men who were taking part in a long-term men’s health study. The researchers used medical records to find out how frequently the men sought prostate cancer screening over roughly a decade; screening included digital rectal examinations and blood tests for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a protein that can signal prostate cancer.

In general, Wallner’s team found, men with a family history of prostate cancer were 40 percent more likely than those without such a history to frequently seek screening. But when the researchers considered marital status, they found that family history was a motivator only for married or co-habitating men.

On the other hand, men who said they were “worried or concerned” about developing prostate cancer had higher rates of frequent screening regardless of their marital status.

The findings, the researchers write, “provide insight as to how to better promote the benefits of early detection among high-risk men.”

Still, they add, more research is needed to see what factors other than marital status motivate men to get screened.

SOURCE: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, December 2008.

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