Low-Value Prostate-Specific Antigen Screening in Older Males

JAMA Netw Open. 2023 Apr 3;6(4):e237504. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.7504.


Importance: The US Preventive Services Task Force guidelines advise against prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening for prostate cancer in males older than 69 years due to the risk of false-positive results and overdiagnosis of indolent disease. However, this low-value PSA screening in males aged 70 years or older remains common.

Objective: To characterize the factors associated with low-value PSA screening in males 70 years or older.

Design, setting, and participants: This survey study used data from the 2020 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a nationwide annual survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that collects information via telephone from more than 400 000 US adults on behavioral risk factors, chronic illnesses, and use of preventive services. The final cohort comprised male respondents to the 2020 BRFSS survey who were categorized into the following age groups: 70 to 74 years, 75 to 79 years, or 80 years or older. Males with a former or current prostate cancer diagnosis were excluded.

Main outcomes and measures: The outcomes were recent PSA screening rates and factors associated with low-value PSA screening. Recent screening was defined as PSA testing within the past 2 years. Weighted multivariable logistic regressions and 2-sided significance tests were used to characterize factors associated with recent screening.

Results: The cohort included 32 306 males. Most of these males (87.6%) were White individuals, whereas 1.1% were American Indian, 1.2% were Asian, 4.3% were Black, and 3.4% were Hispanic individuals. Within this cohort, 42.8% of respondents were aged 70 to 74 years, 28.4% were aged 75 to 79 years, and 28.9% were 80 years or older. The recent PSA screening rates were 55.3% for males in the 70-to-74-year age group, 52.1% in the 75-to-79-year age group, and 39.4% in the 80-year-or-older group. Among all racial groups, non-Hispanic White males had the highest screening rate (50.7%), and non-Hispanic American Indian males had the lowest screening rate (32.0%). Screening increased with higher educational level and annual income. Married respondents were screened more than unmarried males. In a multivariable regression model, discussing PSA testing advantages with a clinician (odds ratio [OR], 9.09; 95% CI, 7.60-11.40; P < .001) was associated with increased recent screening, whereas discussing PSA testing disadvantages had no association with screening (OR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.77-1.17; P = .60). Other factors associated with a higher screening rate included having a primary care physician, a post-high school educational level, and income of more than $25 000 per year.

Conclusions and relevance: Results of this survey study suggest that older male respondents to the 2020 BRFSS survey were overscreened for prostate cancer despite the age cutoff for PSA screening recommended in national guidelines. Discussing the benefits of PSA testing with a clinician was associated with increased screening, underscoring the potential of clinician-level interventions to reduce overscreening in older males.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Early Detection of Cancer* / economics
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Humans
  • Low-Value Care*
  • Male
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen* / blood
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • KLK3 protein, human
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen