The Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial of the National Cancer Institute: history, organization, and status

Control Clin Trials. 2000 Dec;21(6 Suppl):251S-272S. doi: 10.1016/s0197-2456(00)00097-0.


The Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial is enrolling 148,000 men and women ages 55-74 at ten screening centers nationwide with balanced randomization to intervention and control arms. For prostate cancer, men receive a digital rectal examination and a blood test for prostate-specific antigen. For lung cancer, men and women receive a posteroanterior view chest X-ray. For colorectal cancer, men and women undergo a 60-cm flexible sigmoidoscopy. For ovarian cancer, women receive a blood test for the CA125 tumor marker and transvaginal ultrasound. Members of the control arm continue with their usual care. Follow-up in both groups will continue for at least 13 years from randomization to assess health status and cause of death. The primary endpoint is mortality from the four PLCO cancers, which accounts for about 53% of all cancer deaths in men and 41% of cancer deaths in women in the United States each year. Blood specimens are collected from screened participants, buccal cell DNA from controls, and histology slides from cases; these are maintained in a biorepository. Participants complete a baseline questionnaire (covering health status and risk factors) and a dietary questionnaire. More than 12,000 participants were enrolled in the pilot phase (concluded in September 1994). Changes in the eligibility criteria followed. As of April 2000, enrollment exceeded 144,500. Data are scanned into designated on-site computers for uploading by participant identification number to the coordinating center for quality checks, archival storage, and preparation of analysis datasets for use by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Scientific direction is provided by NCI scientists, trial investigators, external consultants, and an independent data safety and monitoring board. Performance and data quality are monitored via data edits, site visits, random record audits, and teleconferences. The PLCO trial is formally endorsed by the American Cancer Society and has been ranked by the American Urological Association as one of the most important prostate cancer studies being conducted. Special efforts to enroll black participants are cosponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Mass Screening*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Patient Selection
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic*