ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Holistic Treatment for Candida Infection
New Insights Show Ginseng Fights Inflammation
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Beware of Dog Bites
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Cane Use May Cut Progression of Knee Osteoarthritis
Improved Hip Implants Can Last 20 Years
High Birth Weight Doubles Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
CANCER
Healthy Behaviors Slow Functional Decline After Cancer
Many Cancer Patients Turn to Complementary Medicine
Antioxidants Pose No Melanoma Threat
CAREGIVING
Obese Children More Likely to Suffer Lower Body Injuries
Transition From Home to Hospital Rarely Seamless
Bariatric Surgery Centers Don't Deliver Better Outcomes
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Mercury in Fish Linked to High Blood Pressure
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
High Blood Fat Levels Common in Americans
COSMETIC
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Health Tip: After Liposuction
DENTAL, ORAL
Laser Technology Spots Cavities Before They Start
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
DIABETES
Insulin Resistance Tied to Peripheral Artery Disease
Spices, Herbs Boost Health for Diabetics
Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Updated
DIET, NUTRITION
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Fruit Even Healthier Than Thought: Study Shows
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Common Pesticide Tied to Development Delays in Kids
Fertilizer Ban Makes a Difference
EYE CARE, VISION
Glaucoma Treatment Can Prevent Blindness
FDA Goes After Unapproved Eye Washes, Skin Ointments
Eye Problems, Hearing Loss May Be Linked
FITNESS
Run for Your Life
Brisk Walk Can Help Leave Common Cold Behind
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
GENERAL HEALTH
Spread of Swine Flu in Japan Could Raise WHO Alert to Highest Level
Smog Tougher on the Obese
After Job Loss, People Report More Health Issues
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Drinking Your Way to Health? Perhaps Not
Small Cuts in Salt Intake Spur Big Drops in Heart Trouble
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Traffic Seems to Make Kids' Asthma Worse
Eating Fish, Breast-Feeding Boost Infant Development
School Phys. Ed. Injuries Up 150 Percent
MEN'S HEALTH
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
MENTAL HEALTH
Worries About Weight Are Tied to Teen Suicide Tries
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
Meditation May Boost College Students' Learning
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
For Baby and Mom Alike, Breast-Feeding May Be Best
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
SENIORS
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Laughter Can Stimulate a Dull Appetite
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Calcium Helps Ward Off Colon Cancer
Postmenopausal Women With Breast Cancer Face Joint Issues
Active Young Women Need Calcium, Vitamin D
Add your Article

More Cancer Tests Mean More False-Positive Results

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- The more cancer screening tests you undergo, the higher your risk of having at least one false-positive result, researchers say.

While that conclusion may seem like common sense, it's not something that patients or doctors often consider, suggest the authors of a study in the May/June issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

False-positive results from routine cancer screening can cause undue worry and in some cases lead to unnecessary biopsies or treatments, experts note.

In the new study, "after 14 tests total, over half of the people in our study had a false-positive result. No test is perfect, and you would expect to see it go up over time, but how rapidly the risk went up was surprising," said the study's lead author, Dr. Jennifer Croswell, acting director of the office of medical applications of research at the U.S. National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

"It's important to know ahead of time the risk of false-positives," she said. "Screenings have to be thought of like any other medical intervention and it's important to have the discussion about the risks and the benefits."

Croswell and her colleagues reviewed data from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial, which included nearly 70,000 participants. The study volunteers were between the ages of 55 and 74, and were randomly selected to receive either normal care or more intensive screening.

Those in the normal-care group were offered screening through their own private physicians as usual. Those in the intervention group were offered a baseline chest X-ray along with a yearly follow-up for two years for non-smokers and three years for smokers to check for lung cancer; a baseline flexible sigmoidoscopy to check for colorectal cancer, along with a three- or five-year follow-up; annual tests for cancer antigen 125 (CA-125) and a transvaginal ultrasound yearly to check for ovarian cancer in women; and an annual digital rectal exam to check for prostate cancer in men, as well as a prostate-specific antigen test.

No information was included on mammography for women in either the intervention group or the usual care group.

For those who had 14 screening tests during the study period, the cumulative risk of having at least one false-positive was 60.4 percent for men and about 49 percent for women. The cumulative risk of having to undergo an invasive diagnostic procedure due to a false-positive test result was almost 29 percent for men and just over 22 percent for women.

Croswell said the researchers weren't sure why the false-positive rate was higher for men, but it likely had something to do with the tests that were studied.

"The fact is that screening tests aren't diagnostic," said Robert Smith, director of cancer screening for the American Cancer Society. "A certain risk of false positives and false negatives are to be expected. You can try to very aggressively reduce the false-positive rate, but then you also cut into cancer detection rates," he explained.

"Most people place a higher priority on finding cancer early than preventing false-positives. I think the public often understands that false-positives happen," said Smith. But, he added, "We really need to do a better job of explaining to adults that there is a plus side and a down side to screening. We need to do a better job of letting people know what to expect, and that screening tests aren't perfect."

In another study in the same issue of the journal, researchers at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, take a different look at medical errors, and focus on the types of errors that patients make. While the study didn't attempt to rank which medical errors patients are most likely to make, the researchers did try to identify the types of errors patients might make.

They found that patient errors could be classified into two broad categories: action or mental errors. Action errors are related to patient behavior and may include coming late to an appointment or not following directions when taking medications. Mental errors are when a patient has compromised thought processes, memory problems or knowledge deficits. Examples of mental errors include forgetting to take medications or a failure to understand the doctor's instructions. The authors suggest that future research should try to account for these errors and find ways for clinicians and patients to work together to reduce errors.

More information

The American Cancer Society's Web site lists which cancer screenings you need.



SOURCES: Jennifer M. Croswell, M.D., acting director, office of medical applications of research, U.S. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.; Robert Smith, Ph.D., director of cancer screening, American Cancer Society; May/June 2009 Annals of Family Medicine

Last Updated: May 11, 2009

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