Introduction: Prostate cancer is the leading cancer in U.S. men, and the third leading cause of cancer deaths. Principal screening tests for detection of asymptomatic prostate cancer include digital rectal examination (DRE) and measurement of the serum tumor marker, prostate-specific antigen (PSA). There are risks and benefits associated with prostate cancer screening. Randomized controlled trials of screening by DRE and PSA are limited to two previously published studies. Two other large-scale randomized controlled trials are currently in progress.
Methods: This study reviewed the efficacy of DRE and PSA for prostate cancer screening found in the medical literature prior to July 2007.
Results: Applications of PSA screening tests used in clinical practice include (1) a PSA cutoff of 4 ng/ml, (2) age-specific PSA, (3) PSA velocity, (4) PSA density, and (5) percent free PSA. Prostate cancer screening can detect early disease and offers the potential to decrease morbidity and mortality. Prostate cancer screening benefits, however, remain unproven, pending results of ongoing trials. There is currently no convincing evidence that early screening, detection, and treatment improves mortality. Limitations of prostate cancer screening include potential adverse health effects associated with false-positive and negative results, and treatment side effects.
Conclusions: The American College of Preventive Medicine concludes that there is insufficient evidence to recommend routine population screening with DRE or PSA. Clinicians caring for men, especially African-American men and those with positive family histories, should provide information about potential benefits and risks of prostate cancer screening, and the limitations of current evidence for screening, in order to maximize informed decision making.