Screening for prostate cancer: a guidance statement from the Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 2013 May 21;158(10):761-769. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-158-10-201305210-00633.


Description: Prostate cancer is an important health problem in men. It rarely causes death in men younger than 50 years; most deaths associated with it occur in men older than 75 years. The benefits of screening with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test are outweighed by the harms for most men. Prostate cancer never becomes clinically significant in a patient's lifetime in a considerable proportion of men with prostate cancer detected with the PSA test. They will receive no benefit and are subject to substantial harms from the treatment of prostate cancer. The American College of Physicians (ACP) developed this guidance statement for clinicians by assessing current prostate cancer screening guidelines developed by other organizations. ACP believes that it is more valuable to provide clinicians with a rigorous review of available guidelines rather than develop a new guideline on the same topic when several guidelines are available on a topic or when existing guidelines conflict. The purpose of this guidance statement is to critically review available guidelines to help guide internists and other clinicians in making decisions about screening for prostate cancer. The target patient population for this guidance statement is all adult men.

Methods: This guidance statement is derived from an appraisal of available guidelines on screening for prostate cancer. Authors searched the National Guideline Clearinghouse to identify prostate cancer screening guidelines in the United States and selected 4 developed by the American College of Preventive Medicine, American Cancer Society, American Urological Association, and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The AGREE II (Appraisal of Guidelines, Research and Evaluation in Europe) instrument was used to evaluate the guidelines.

Guidance statement 1: ACP recommends that clinicians inform men between the age of 50 and 69 years about the limited potential benefits and substantial harms of screening for prostate cancer. ACP recommends that clinicians base the decision to screen for prostate cancer using the prostate-specific antigen test on the risk for prostate cancer, a discussion of the benefits and harms of screening, the patient's general health and life expectancy, and patient preferences. ACP recommends that clinicians should not screen for prostate cancer using the prostate-specific antigen test in patients who do not express a clear preference for screening. GUIDANCE STATEMENT 2: ACP recommends that clinicians should not screen for prostate cancer using the prostate-specific antigen test in average-risk men under the age of 50 years, men over the age of 69 years, or men with a life expectancy of less than 10 to 15 years.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Decision Making
  • Digital Rectal Examination / standards
  • Early Detection of Cancer / standards*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Risk Factors
  • United States


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen