Purpose: Although there is general agreement that men older than 75 years are unlikely to benefit from prostate specific antigen testing, patient reported testing rates in these patients exceed 30%. We examined physician reported PSA testing in elderly men, and physician and practice characteristics associated with testing.
Materials and methods: Using the 1999 to 2002 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a nationally representative sample of outpatient visits to nonfederal office based physicians, we measured rates of prostate specific antigen testing by age group in men without prostate cancer who were 40 years or older and who visited outpatient family medicine, internal medicine or urology clinics.
Results: An estimated 42.3 million prostate specific antigen tests were performed from 1999 to 2002, of which 5.91 million (14.0%) were performed in men older than 75 years. The population based testing rate was 6.1% in patients 40 to 49-year-old, 26.0% in patients 50 to 75-year-old and 27.8% in patients older than 75 years. Urologists performed 35.4% of prostate specific antigen tests in men older than 75 years. Controlling for sociodemographic variables physicians with a laboratory on site were more likely to perform a prostate specific antigen test (OR 1.35, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.71). In men older than 75 years the odds of prostate specific antigen testing were 1.58 times higher (95% CI 1.01 to 2.50) in practices with a laboratory on site.
Conclusions: Up to a third of men older than 75 years undergo prostate specific antigen testing despite an average life expectancy of less than 10 years. Physician and practice characteristics are associated with prostate specific antigen PSA testing.