Objectives: To describe the trends in prostate-specific antigen (PSA) use and associated cancer detection among black and white Medicare beneficiaries older than 65 years during the calendar period from January 1991 through December 1998.
Methods: Medicare claims data were linked with cancer registry data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program of the National Cancer Institute. Data from a 5% random sample of men without a diagnosis of prostate cancer were combined with data from prostate cancer cases diagnosed during the calendar period from 1991 to 1998. PSA tests conducted after a diagnosis of prostate cancer were excluded.
Results: PSA use has stabilized among white men, reaching an annual rate of 38% by 1995 and remaining at this level through 1998. The annual rate of use among black men reached 31% by 1998, but was still increasing at that time. By 1996, at least 80% of tests in both blacks and whites were second or later tests. By the end of 1996, 35% of white men and 25% of black men were undergoing testing at least biannually or more frequently. In 1996, 83% of diagnoses in whites and 77% in blacks were preceded by a PSA test.
Conclusions: Older black men lag slightly behind older white men in their use of the PSA test; however, annual testing rates in blacks have yet to stabilize. In both race groups, an overwhelming majority of diagnoses are associated with a PSA test, whether for screening or diagnostic purposes. Regular screening rates in blacks are substantially lower than in whites, but the regular screening rates are relatively low in both race groups. Should PSA screening prove efficacious, efforts to promote regular use among both black and white men will likely be needed.