Prostate cancer mortality and metastasis under different biopsy frequencies in North American active surveillance cohorts

Cancer. 2020 Feb 1;126(3):583-592. doi: 10.1002/cncr.32557. Epub 2019 Oct 22.


Background: Active surveillance (AS) is an accepted means of managing low-risk prostate cancer. Because of the rarity of downstream events, data from existing AS cohorts cannot yet address how differences in surveillance intensity affect metastasis and mortality. This study projected the comparative benefits of different AS schedules in men diagnosed with prostate cancer who had Gleason score (GS) ≤6 disease and risk profiles similar to those in North American AS cohorts.

Methods: Times of GS upgrading were simulated based on AS data from the University of Toronto, Johns Hopkins University, the University of California at San Francisco, and the Canary Pass Active Surveillance Cohort. Times to metastasis and prostate cancer death, informed by models from the Scandinavian Prostate Cancer Group 4 trial, were projected under biopsy surveillance schedules ranging from watchful waiting to annual biopsies. Outcomes included the risk of metastasis, the risk of death, remaining life-years (LYs), and quality-adjusted LYs.

Results: Compared with watchful waiting, AS biopsies reduced the risk of prostate cancer metastasis and prostate cancer death at 20 years by 1.4% to 3.3% and 1.0% to 2.4%, respectively; and 5-year biopsies reduced the risk of metastasis and prostate cancer death by 1.0% to 2.4% and 0.6% to 1.6%, respectively. There was little difference between annual and 5-year biopsy schedules in terms of LYs (range of differences, 0.04-0.16 LYs) and quality-adjusted LYs (range of differences, -0.02 to 0.09 quality-adjusted LYs).

Conclusions: Among men diagnosed with GS ≤6 prostate cancer, obtaining a biopsy every 3 or 4 years appears to be an acceptable alternative to more frequent biopsies. Reducing surveillance intensity for those who have a low risk of progression reduces the number of biopsies while preserving the benefit of more frequent schedules.

Keywords: Gleason score; active surveillance; biopsy; microsimulation; prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • 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

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease Progression*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • North America / epidemiology
  • Prostate / pathology*
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / blood
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Risk Assessment
  • San Francisco / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Whites


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen