Prostate-specific antigen-based screening for prostate cancer: An evidence update for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force [Internet] - Abstract

In 2008, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concluded that the evidence was insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for prostate cancer in men younger than age 75 years.


The USPSTF recommended against screening for prostate cancer in men aged 75 years or older.

To update a previous systematic review performed for the USPSTF and evaluate new evidence on the potential benefits of prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-based screening for prostate cancer.

Data Sources: English-language articles identified in PubMed and the Cochrane Library (search dates January 2007 to July 2011), reference lists of retrieved articles, and expert suggestions.

Randomized controlled trials, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses were selected to determine whether PSA-based screening decreases prostate cancer-specific or all-cause mortality. Where available, information on the potential harms of screening for prostate cancer was also extracted from included studies.

Studies were reviewed, abstracted, and rated for quality, using predefined USPSTF criteria.

Five randomized controlled trials (two fair- and three poor-quality) and two meta-analyses evaluating the impact of PSA-based screening on prostate cancer mortality were identified. A report describing results from a single center participating in one of the fair-quality trials was also identified. Of the two highest-quality trials, the U.S. Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial found no statistically significant effect of PSA-based screening on prostate cancer mortality after 10 years (rate ratio [RR], 1.11 [95% CI, 0.83–1.50]). The European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer also found no statistically significant effect in all enrolled men (ages 50–74 years) after a median followup of 9 years (RR, 0.85 [95% CI, 0.73–1.00]), but reported a 0.07% absolute risk reduction in a prespecified subgroup of men aged 55 to 69 years (RR, 0.80 [95% CI, 0.65–0.98]). Neither meta-analysis indicated a reduction in prostate cancer mortality with the use of PSA-based screening. When a benefit was found, PSA-based screening resulted in an estimated 48 additional men being treated for each prostate cancer death that was averted. Twelve percent to 13% of screened men had false-positive results after 3 to 4 screening rounds, and clinically important infections, bleeding, or urinary retention occurred after 0.5%–1.0% of prostate biopsies.

Evidence was conflicting regarding the effect of screening on prostate cancer mortality in the highest-quality trials; they also represented interim results. We restricted the search on the potential harms of PSA-based screening to information available from randomized efficacy trials.

After about 10 years, PSA-based screening results in the detection of more cases of prostate cancer, but small to no reduction in prostate cancer-specific mortality.

Written by:
Lin K, Croswell JM, Koenig H, Lam C, Maltz A.   Are you the author?

Reference: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2011 Oct. Report No.: 12-05160-EF-1.

PubMed Abstract
PMID: 22171385 Prostate Cancer Section