Benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening - predictions of the ONCOTYROL prostate cancer outcome and policy model

BMC Public Health. 2017 Jun 26;17(1):596. doi: 10.1186/s12889-017-4439-9.


Background: A recent recalibration of the ONCOTYROL Prostate Cancer Outcome and Policy (PCOP) Model, assuming that latent prostate cancer (PCa) detectable at autopsy might be detectable by screening as well, resulted in considerable worsening of the benefit-harm balance of screening. In this study, we used the recalibrated model to assess the effects of familial risk, quality of life (QoL) preferences, age, and active surveillance.

Methods: Men with average and elevated familial PCa risk were simulated in separate models, differing in familial risk parameters. Familial risk was assumed to affect PCa onset and progression simultaneously in the base-case, and separately in scenario analyses. Evaluated screening strategies included one-time screening at different ages, and screening at different intervals and age ranges. Optimal screening strategies were identified depending on age and individual QoL preferences. Strategies were additionally evaluated with active surveillance by biennial re-biopsy delaying treatment of localized cancer until grade progression to Gleason score ≥ 7.

Results: Screening men with average PCa risk reduced quality-adjusted life expectancy (QALE) even under favorable assumptions. Men with elevated familial risk, depending on age and disutilities, gained QALE. While for men with familial risk aged 55 and 60 years annual screening to age 69 was the optimal strategy over most disutility ranges, no screening was the preferred option for 65 year-old men with average and above disutilities. Active surveillance greatly reduced overtreatment, but QALE gains by averted adverse events were opposed by losses due to delayed treatment and additional biopsies. The effect of active surveillance on the benefit-harm balance of screening differed between populations, as net losses and gains in QALE predicted for screening without active surveillance in men with average and familial PCa risk, respectively, were both reduced.

Conclusions: Assumptions about PCa risk and screen-detectable prevalence significantly affect the benefit-harm balance of screening. Based on the assumptions of our model, PCa screening should focus on candidates with familial predisposition with consideration of individual QoL preferences and age. Active surveillance may require treatment initiation before Gleason score progression to 7. Alternative active surveillance strategies should be evaluated in further modeling studies.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Biopsy
  • Disease Progression
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Family
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Policy
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Quality of Life*
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years*
  • Risk Assessment