Purpose: Many advances have occurred during the last decade in the clinical use of prostate specific antigen (PSA) for detecting, staging and monitoring prostate cancer. We review the clinical usefulness and limitations of serum PSA as a tumor marker of prostate cancer.
Materials and methods: The English language literature was reviewed with respect to the major contributions and limitations of PSA in present clinical practice.
Results: Although controversial, age specific PSA reference ranges can improve the sensitivity for prostate cancer detection in young men and the specificity in older men. Percent free PSA improves the specificity for prostate cancer detection in men with PSA values between 4 and 10 ng./ml., and a PSA density of greater than 0.15 may better distinguish benign prostatic hyperplasia from prostate cancer. PSA velocity can improve the ability to detect prostate cancer when 3 serial PSA values are measured during a 2-year period. For prostate cancer staging PSA is most useful combined with clinical stage and Gleason score in multivariate analysis. Percent free PSA may prove useful for staging prostate cancer but further clinical trials are needed to determine its clinical usefulness. PSA is the most clinically useful means to monitor disease recurrence after treatment of prostate cancer. With ultrasensitive PSA assays it is now possible to increase the lead time for detection of disease recurrence by several months.
Conclusions: During the last decade much of the focus has been on improving the ability of this tumor marker to detect prostate cancer. PSA remains the best and most widely used tumor marker in urology today.