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Americans mixed on adequacy of cancer screenings

(Reuters) - Many Americans are satisfied with how often they are screened for cancer but some say they are not screened often enough, while a growing body of evidence suggests too much screening for certain types of cancer may do more harm than good, a Gallup poll showed.

According to the poll released on Wednesday, 58 percent of 1,012 adults surveyed thought standard cancer screenings, such as Pap smears, mammograms or blood tests to detect prostate cancer, were performed often enough.

Thirty-one percent said such cancer screenings were not done often enough, and 7 percent said they were done too often.

"Americans for many years have heard the traditional admonition that 'early detection' of cancer is always beneficial for the patient, and the results of the current question suggest that this belief still holds in the minds of most," Gallup pollsters said in their report.

There is a debate over the value of frequent screening, set off by recommendations that widespread cancer screening for breast and prostate cancer be scaled back.

In October, the government-backed U.S. Preventive Services Task Force triggered an uproar among cancer specialists when it issued a draft recommendation that healthy men not get a common blood test for prostate cancer called the PSA test. The task force is collecting public comment on the draft recommendation against the PSA test until December 13.

The same panel caused a media storm in 2009 after it recommended that doctors scale back routine mammograms for women in their 40s and 50s.

Just over half the respondents in the Gallup poll, conducted between November 3 and 6, were men. The maximum margin of sampling error was 5 percentage points for men and 6 percentage points for women.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh in Washington)

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