Recent Changes in Prostate Cancer Screening Practices and Epidemiology

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Prostate specific antigen based screening for prostate cancer has had a significant impact on the epidemiology of the disease. Its use has been associated with a significant decrease in prostate cancer mortality but has also resulted in the over diagnosis and overtreatment of indolent prostate cancer, exposing many men to the harms of treatment without benefit. The USPSTF (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) in 2008 issued a recommendation against screening men older than 75 years, and in 2012 against routine screening for all men, indicating that in its interpretation the harms of screening outweigh the benefits. We review changes in the use of prostate specific antigen testing, performance of prostate biopsy, incidence of prostate cancer and stage of disease at presentation since 2012.

Materials and Methods:

An English language literature search was performed for terms that included “prostate specific antigen,” “screening” and “United States Preventive Services Task Force” in various combinations. A total of 26 original studies had been published on the effects of the USPSTF recommendations on prostate specific antigen based screening or prostate cancer incidence in the United States as of December 1, 2016.


Review of the literature from 2012 through the end of 2016 indicates that there has been a decrease in prostate specific antigen testing and prostate biopsy. As a result, there has been a decline in the incidence of localized prostate cancer, including low, intermediate and high risk disease. The data regarding stage at presentation have yet to mature but there are some early signs of a shift toward higher burden of disease at presentation.


These findings raise concern about a reversal of the observed improvement in prostate cancer specific mortality during preceding decades. Alternative screening strategies would 1) incorporate patient preferences by allowing shared decision-making, 2) preserve the survival benefits associated with screening, 3) improve the specificity of screening to reduce unnecessary biopsies and detection of low risk disease, and 4) promote the use of active surveillance for low risk cancers if they are detected.

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