Prostate cancer screening in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian cancer screening trial: update on findings from the initial four rounds of screening in a randomized trial

BJU Int. 2008 Dec;102(11):1524-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-410X.2008.08214.x.


Objective: To describe the results of the first four rounds (T0-T3) of prostate cancer screening in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) cancer screening trial (designed to determine the value of screening in the four cancers), that for prostate cancer is evaluating whether annual screening with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and a digital rectal examination (DRE) reduces prostate cancer-specific mortality.

Subjects and methods: In all, 38 349 men aged 55-74 years were randomized to undergo annual screening with PSA (abnormal >4.0 ng/mL) and a DRE. The follow-up of abnormal screening results was at the discretion of subjects' physicians. PLCO staff obtained records related to diagnostic follow-up of positive screen results.

Results: Compliance with screening decreased slightly from 89% at baseline to 85% at T3. Both PSA positivity rates (range 7.7-8.8% at T0-T3) and DRE positivity rates (range 6.8-7.6% at T0-T3) were relatively constant over time. The positive predictive value (PPV) of a PSA level of >4.0 ng/mL decreased from 17.9% at T0 to 10.4-12.3% at T1-T3; the PPV for DRE (in the absence of a positive PSA test) was constant over time (2.9-3.6%). Cancer was diagnosed in 1902 men (4.9%). Screen-detected cancers at T0 (549) were more likely to be clinical stage III/IV (5.8%) and to have a Gleason score of 7-10 (34%) than screen-detected cancers at T1-T3 (1.5-4.2% stage III/IV and 24-27% Gleason score 7-10 among 1054 cases).

Conclusion: The present findings on serial prostate screening are similar to those reported from other multi-round screening studies. Determining the effect of PSA screening on prostate cancer mortality awaits further follow-up.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Digital Rectal Examination
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / mortality


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen