Prostate specific antigen testing among the elderly--when to stop?

J Urol. 2009 Apr;181(4):1606-14; discussion 1613-4. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2008.11.117. Epub 2009 Feb 25.


Purpose: Prostate specific antigen testing is common in the elderly despite evidence that older men without aggressive prostate cancer are unlikely to benefit from diagnosis and treatment. We evaluated the relationship between prostate specific antigen and the risk of aggressive prostate cancer developing in men of various ages.

Materials and methods: This longitudinal cohort study consisted of 849 men (122 with and 727 without prostate cancer) with serial prostate specific antigen measurements participating in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. The primary outcome measure was the proportion of men by prostate specific antigen and age who died of prostate cancer or in whom aggressive prostate cancer developed (death from prostate cancer, a prostate specific antigen 20 ng/ml or greater, or Gleason score 8 or greater).

Results: No participants between 75 and 80 years old with a prostate specific antigen less than 3.0 ng/ml died of prostate cancer. In contrast, men of all ages with a prostate specific antigen of 3.0 ng/ml or greater had a continually increasing probability of death from prostate cancer (Fisher's exact test p <0.001). The time to death or diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancer after age 75 years was not significantly different between the prostate specific antigen categories of 3 to 3.9 and 4 to 9.9 ng/ml (p = 0.634), whereas the time to death or diagnosis of high risk prostate cancer was significantly longer for the prostate specific antigen category of less than 3 vs 3 ng/ml or greater (p = 0.019).

Conclusions: Men 75 to 80 years old with a prostate specific antigen less than 3 ng/ml are unlikely to die of or experience aggressive prostate cancer during their remaining life, suggesting that prostate specific antigen testing might be safely discontinued for these men.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood*
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / standards*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen