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J Urol. 2006 Jun;175(6):2078-82.

Prevalence of prostate specific antigen testing for prostate cancer in elderly men.

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  • 1Department of Urology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA.



We investigated the prevalence and outcome of PSA testing for prostate cancer screening or diagnosis in elderly men 75 years or older at our academic medical center.


A cross-sectional study design was used to identify all men 75 years or older who underwent a PSA test through the family medicine or internal medicine service at our institution between January 1, 1998 and June 30, 2004. All patients with a suspected (PSA less than 0.1 ng/ml) or confirmed prior diagnosis of prostate cancer were excluded. The prevalence of PSA testing was then compared to that in younger age groups (45 to 54, 55 to 64 and 65 to 74 years). We then examined the frequency and nature of further evaluation and treatment performed in men following the PSA test.


The 8,787 male patients who were 75 years or older generated a total of 82,672 visits in the 5.5-year period. Of these patients 505 (5.7%) underwent at least 1 PSA test. The prevalence of PSA testing in the younger age groups was 10.3% (1,769 of 17,175) in patients 45 to 54 years old, 14.9% (2,052 of 13,772) in those 55 to 64 years old and 11.8% (1,258 of 10,661) in those 65 to 74 years old (chi-square test p <0.001). Of these patients 98 of 343 (28.6%) with PSA between 0.1 and 4 ng/ml were referred to a urologist at our institution and 3 underwent biopsy. None had a prostate cancer diagnosis. Of the 162 patients with PSA more than 4 ng/ml 84 (51.9%) were referred to a urologist. Only 10 of the 84 patients (11.9%) who were referred to a urologist underwent prostate biopsy. Six of the 10 men (60%) were diagnosed with prostate cancer, including 1 with a Gleason 6 tumor, 1 with a Gleason 7 tumor and 4 who were found to have tumors with a Gleason score of 8 or greater. All patients received androgen deprivation therapy, except 1 who received local external beam radiation therapy. An additional patient was diagnosed by biopsy of a vertebral lesion and he received hormone therapy. At a median followup of 51 months (range 28 to 72) 4 of 7 men (57%) were alive with disease.


PSA testing for prostate cancer screening and diagnosis appear to decrease with advancing age. A small but significant proportion of men who are 75 years or older continue to undergo PSA testing. Abnormal PSA results do not always result in further evaluation and therapy for prostate cancer in elderly men. The establishment of firm guideline recommendations regarding PSA testing and further evaluation for prostate cancer in elderly men, perhaps based on individualized geriatric assessment, may be helpful.

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