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J Fam Pract. 2000 Feb;49(2):169-72.

Age-specific patterns of prostate-specific antigen testing among primary care physician visits.

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  • 1General Medicine Division, Medical Services, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.



Early detection of prostate cancer is thought to be effective, and indirect evidence suggests that men aged 50 to 69 years will benefit most while those aged 70 and older will benefit least from it. The goal of our study was to describe usual care patterns for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing by primary care physicians in the United States.


We analyzed office visits made by adult men to family physicians, general internists, general practitioners, and geriatricians recorded by the 1995 and 1996 National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys. Our outcome measure was the probability of a primary care physician ordering a PSA test during a visit.


Seventeen percent of the tests reported were among men aged younger than 50 years, 50% were for men aged 50 to 69 years, and 33% were for men aged 70 years and older. The frequency of PSA testing was highest during visits by men aged 60 to 64 years (7.1%), 65 to 69 years (7.0%), 70 to 74 years (7.0%), and 75 to 79 years (6.3%) but lower for men aged older than 80 years (3.1%).


Our findings suggest that during the mid-1990s prostate cancer screening decisions by primary care physicians were not sensitive to patients' ages.

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