JUNEAU (AP) -- Insurance companies will be required to cover the costs of annual prostate cancer screening for all men over 40 under a bill signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Tony Knowles.
Mandatory insurance coverage will kick in for men over 35 if they are in a high-risk group, defined as blacks or someone who has a family history of prostate cancer, under House Bill 416.
''Some doctors will say it's not a question of whether men will get the disease, but when,'' Knowles said. ''The threat of prostate cancer to men of all ages, and the great success in fighting it through early detection and treatment, is well known today.''
The Legislature in 1996 passed a bill requiring health insurers to cover the cost of annual prostate cancer screening for men 50 years or older, and 40 years or older for those in high risk groups. Knowles said Alaska is the first state to lower the age of mandatory coverage to 40 for all and 35 for men in high-risk groups.
Black men have a 32 percent higher risk of contracting prostate cancer than men with other racial ancestries. Men with a family history of the disease are at risk up to six times higher than men who do not.
A simple blood test, the Prostate Specific Blood Antigen test, can provide early detection, which often leads to successful treatment and eradication of the cancer.
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