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J Urol. 2000 May;163(5):1467-70.

Percent free prostate specific antigen and cancer detection in black and white men with total prostate specific antigen 2.5 to 9.9 ng./ml.

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  • 1Division of Urology and Department of Pathology, University of Mississippi School of Medicine, Jackson, Mississippi, USA.



The ratio of free-to-total prostate specific antigen (PSA), or percent free PSA, is a useful adjunct to total PSA for estimating the risk of prostate cancer when total PSA is 2.5 to 9.9 ng./ml. Relationships between cancer detection and total PSA are influenced by race but to our knowledge relationships between cancer detection and percent free PSA have not been studied.


A total of 222 black and 298 white consecutive and evaluable men with total PSA 2.5 to 9.9 ng./ml. underwent prostate biopsy for suspected cancer at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Clinical measurements included digital rectal examination, total and free serum PSA, prostate volume, PSA density and Gleason score of malignant biopsy specimens.


Median percent free PSA was 14.1 (range 3.6 to 49.2) in 201 men with prostate cancer and 21.9 (range 5.7 to 83.3) in 319 without detectable cancer (p <0.0001). Significant racial differences in demographic characteristics and clinical measurements were limited to total PSA, which was higher in black men (p = 0.03). Cancer was detected in 156 black (47%) and 206 white (33%) men (p = 0.001). Areas under receiver operating characteristics curves for percent free PSA and total PSA were 0.66 and 0.58, respectively, for black men (p = 0.15), and 0.76 and 0.58, respectively, for white men (p <0.00001). Percent free PSA was 35.2 in black men and 29.2 in white men, and specificity was 9.1% and 28.7%, respectively, when sensitivity for percent free PSA was set at 95%. Of 156 black and 206 white men with percent free PSA less than 25, 83 (53%) and 85 (41%), respectively, had detectable cancer (p = 0.03). Of 66 black and 92 white men with percent free PSA 25 or greater 21 (32%) and 12 (13%), respectively, had detectable cancer (p = 0.005).


Our study demonstrates racial differences in relationships between percent free PSA and cancer detection in men with suspected prostatic carcinoma and total PSA 2.5 to 9.9 ng./ml. Clinical application of the commonly used percent free PSA cutoff of less than 25 to determine the advisability of prostate biopsy may lead to under diagnosis of early stage prostate cancer in black men, who are at greater risk of morbidity and mortality from disease than white men.

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