Characteristics of screening detected prostate cancer in men 50 to 66 years old with 3 to 4 ng./ml. Prostate specific antigen

J Urol. 1998 Mar;159(3):899-903.


Purpose: We defined the yield and nature of prostate cancer in the setting of population based, randomized prostate specific antigen (PSA) guided screening in men with PSA levels between 3 and 4 ng./ml. who were 50 to 65 years old at the time of randomization.

Materials and methods: Sextant biopsies were performed in 243 men with PSA of 3 to 4 ng./ml. Therapy decisions were based on core cancer length, histological grade and life expectancy.

Results: Of the men 32 (13.2%) had prostate cancer constituting 23% of all of the 137 prostate cancers to data detected in the first round of our screening study. Age and PSA were similar in men with and without prostate cancer. Men with prostate cancer had significantly lower free PSA and free-to-total PSA ratio, and higher PSA density. Cancer was clinical stage T1c in 27 cases and stage T2 in 5. Hypoechoic areas were noted at transrectal ultrasound in 10 cases. Digital rectal examination and transrectal ultrasound were normal in 21 cases (66%). To date 14 patients have undergone prostatectomy. Surgical specimens showed a mean tumor volume of 1.8 cc (range 0.6 to 4.4) and significant amounts of high grade tumor were present in only 3 cases. Margins were positive in 5 cases, and pathological stage was pT2 in 8 cases and pT3 in 6.

Conclusions: By lowering the PSA cutoff from 4 to 3 ng./ml. an increase in cancer detection by 30% was achieved. While the addition of free-to-total ratio and PSA density may reduce the number of biopsies by about 15% with sensitivity maintained at 90%, systematic sextant biopsies were necessary in most of these mean as 66% of the tumors were negative on transrectal ultrasound and digital rectal examination. The majority of these cancers were clinically significant and suitable for curative treatment. If therapy decisions are based on the pathological findings of the biopsies, the risk of treating insignificant cancers seems low.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biopsy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen