Importance: Prostate cancer screening with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test remains controversial.
Objective: To review evidence from randomized trials and related modeling studies examining the effect of PSA screening vs no screening on prostate cancer-specific mortality and to suggest an approach balancing potential benefits and harms.
Evidence acquisition: MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Register of Controlled Trials were searched from January 1, 2010, to April 3, 2013, for PSA screening trials to update a previous systematic review. Another search was performed in EMBASE and MEDLINE to identify modeling studies extending the results of the 2 large randomized trials identified. The American Heart Association Evidence-Based Scoring System was used to rate level of evidence.
Results: Two trials-the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) screening trial and the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC)-dominate the evidence regarding PSA screening. The former trial demonstrated an increase in cancer incidence in the screening group (relative risk [RR], 1.12; 95% CI, 1.07-1.17) but no cancer-specific mortality benefit to PSA screening after 13-year follow-up (RR, 1.09; 95% CI, 0.87-1.36). The ERSPC demonstrated an increase in cancer incidence with screening (RR, 1.63; 95% CI, 1.57-1.69) and an improvement in the risk of prostate cancer-specific death after 11 years (RR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.68-0.91). The ERSPC documented that 37 additional men needed to receive a diagnosis through screening for every 1 fewer prostate cancer death after 11 years of follow-up among men aged 55 to 69 years (level B evidence for prostate cancer mortality reduction). Harms associated with screening include false-positive results and complications of biopsy and treatment. Modeling studies suggest that this high ratio of additional men receiving diagnoses to prostate cancer deaths prevented will decrease during a longer follow-up (level B evidence).
Conclusions and relevance: Available evidence favors clinician discussion of the pros and cons of PSA screening with average-risk men aged 55 to 69 years. Only men who express a definite preference for screening should have PSA testing. Other strategies to mitigate the potential harms of screening include considering biennial screening, a higher PSA threshold for biopsy, and conservative therapy for men receiving a new diagnosis of prostate cancer.