Opportunistic prostate-specific antigen screening in Italy: 6 years of monitoring from the Italian general practice database

Eur J Cancer Prev. 2010 Nov;19(6):413-6. doi: 10.1097/CEJ.0b013e32833d944b.


The practice of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening has been increasing in Italy despite uncertain scientific evidence and contrary recommendations from most scientific societies. In 2002, a survey of PSA screening diffusion among general practices was performed, looking for screening frequency and age pattern of screened individuals. The objective of this study was to assess whether the features of PSA screening did change after 6 years in the same considered setting. Using the data obtained from 500 Italian general practitioners providing information to the Health Search/CSD Patient database, we selected, for the study purpose 351,091 male individuals. We assumed PSA prescriptions performed during 2005-2008 in individuals without prostate cancer, or benign prostate disease, or urological symptoms history to have a screening purpose. Screening frequency was analyzed in the overall series, by year and by patient's age. Exposure to PSA screening (at least on PSA test in the considered period) of males aged over 50 years raised from 31.4% (confidence interval 95% 31.08-31.70%) during 2002 to 46.4% (confidence interval 95% 46.19-46.68%) during 2008. The highest yearly exposure to PSA screening (55%) and the highest frequency of repeat testing was observed in the 70-79 age range. PSA screening practice has continued to increase in Italy and is often performed in elderly people without any scientific rationale.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Databases, Factual
  • General Practice
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mass Screening / trends
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / prevention & control*


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen