Prostate cancer mortality in screen and clinically detected prostate cancer: estimating the screening benefit

Eur J Cancer. 2010 Jan;46(2):377-83. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2009.09.008. Epub 2009 Oct 3.


Background: To estimate the benefits of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening on prostate cancer (Pca) metastasis and Pca-specific mortality, we compared two populations with a well-defined difference in intensity of screening.

Methods: Between 1997 and 1999, a total of 11,970 men, aged 55-74 years, were included in the intervention arm of the European Randomised Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC) section Rotterdam. Control population consisted of 133,287 men, aged 55-74 years, between 1998 and 1999 in Northern Ireland (NI). Men were followed for Pca incidence, Pca metastasis and cause of death until 31st December 2006.

Results: Median age in both groups was 63 years at study entry (p=0.184). In Rotterdam 94.2% of men and in NI 6% of men underwent PSA testing. In Rotterdam, 1153 men (9.6%) were diagnosed with Pca with median baseline PSA of 5.1 ng/ml. In NI, 3962 men (3.0%, p<0.001) were diagnosed with Pca with median baseline PSA of 18.0 ng/ml (p<0.001). The relative risk of Pca metastasis during observation in the intervention population compared to control population was 0.47 (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.35-0.63; p<0.001). The relative risk of Pca-specific mortality was also lower in the intervention population compared to the control population after a median follow-up of 8.5 years: 0.63 (95% CI, 0.45-0.88; p=0.008); absolute mortality reduction was 1.8 deaths per 1000 men.

Conclusions: A relative reduction in Pca metastasis of 53% and Pca mortality of 37% was observed in the intervention population after 8.5 years of observation. The impact of overdiagnosis, quality of life benefits and cost-effectiveness need to be assessed before population-based PSA screening can be recommended.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / mortality*
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Northern Ireland / epidemiology
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / blood
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / mortality*


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen