Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing of men in UK general practice: a 10-year longitudinal cohort study

BMJ Open. 2017 Oct 30;7(10):e017729. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017729.


Objectives: Cross-sectional studies suggest that around 6% of men undergo prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing each year in UK general practice (GP). This longitudinal study aims to determine the cumulative testing pattern of men over a 10-year period and whether this testing can be considered equivalent to screening for prostate cancer (PCa).

Setting, participants and outcome measures: Patient-level data on PSA tests, biopsies and PCa diagnoses were obtained from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) for the years 2002 to 2011. The cumulative risks of PSA testing and of being diagnosed with PCa were estimated for the 10-year study period. Associations of a man's age, region and index of multiple deprivation with the cumulative risk of PSA testing and PCa diagnosis were investigated. Rates of biopsy and diagnosis, following a high test result, were compared with those from the programme of PSA testing in the Prostate Testing for Cancer and Treatment (ProtecT) study.

Results: The 10-year risk of exposure to at least one PSA test in men aged 45 to 69 years in UK GP was 39.2% (95% CI 39.0 to 39.4%). The age-specific risks ranged from 25.2% for men aged 45-49 years to 53.0% for men aged 65-69 years (p for trend <0.001). For those with a PSA level ≥3, a test in UK GP was less likely to result in a biopsy (6%) and/or diagnosis of PCa (15%) compared with ProtecT study participants (85% and 34%, respectively).

Conclusion: A high proportion of men aged 45-69 years undergo PSA tests in UK GP: 39% over a 10-year period. A high proportion of these tests appear to be for the investigation of lower urinary tract symptoms and not screening for PCa.

Trial registration number: ISRCTN20141297,NCT02044172.

Keywords: primary health care; prostate cancer; psa testing; screening.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Biopsy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Early Detection of Cancer*
  • Family Practice
  • General Practice*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mass Screening*
  • Men's Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Prostate / pathology*
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / blood
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Urologic Diseases / blood
  • Urologic Diseases / diagnosis


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen

Associated data