Scientists have taken a first step toward improving those problematic PSA tests for prostate cancer, by mixing in some genetic information that might help tell which men really need a biopsy.
The blood tests measure a protein that only sometimes signals prostate cancer is brewing. It can be high for other reasons, but doctors order a biopsy to check for a tumor whenever PSA reaches a certain level.
Now scientists have discovered a set of genetic variants that show those cutoffs may be skewed for some men because their normal PSA level is naturally much higher than the average that PSA testing was based on.
That means "you end up biopsying a lot of prostates that did not need any biopsy," said Dr. Kari Stefansson, chief executive officer of deCODE Genetics in Iceland.
His team reported the findings Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Stefansson said he plans to develop a test for those genetic markers, perhaps later next year, in hopes that doctors could use the information to customize how they read and react to their patient's PSA test results.
9/11 ailments: The National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health said Wednesday that as of Sept. 30, nearly 17,000 people were treated in the past year for exposure to dust and fumes from the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center. Most of the people getting care were firefighters, construction workers, police and other personnel who responded to the disaster.
Dannon settlement: Dannon Co. Inc. agreed to pay $21 million and drop some health claims for its Activia yogurt and DanActive dairy drink in settlements with regulators from the federal government and 39 states. Dannon had claimed that beneficial bacteria in its Activia yogurt helps relieve irregularity, and that its DanActive drink helps people avoid catching colds or the flu.