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J Urol. 1999 Sep;162(3 Pt 1):741-8.

Serial prostate specific antigen screening for prostate cancer: a computer model evaluates competing strategies.

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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington, USA.



We compare prostate specific antigen (PSA) screening strategies in terms of expected years of life saved with screening, number of screens, number of false-positive screens and rates of over diagnosis, defined as detection by PSA screening of patients who would never have been diagnosed without screening.


A computer model of disease progression, clinical diagnosis, PSA growth and PSA screening was used. Under baseline conditions, when screening is not considered, the model replicates clinical diagnosis and disease mortality rates recorded by the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program of the National Cancer Institute in the mid 1980s.


Biannual screening with PSA greater than 4.0 ng./ml. was projected to reduce the number of screens and false-positive tests by almost 50% relative to annual screening while retaining 93% of years of life saved. With annual screening use of an age specific bound for PSA to consider a test positive instead of the standard 4.0 ng./ml. was projected to reduce false-positive screens by 27% and over diagnosis by a third while retaining almost 95% of years of life saved. Sensitivity analyses did not change the relative efficacy of biannual screening.


Under the model assumptions biannual PSA screening is a cost-effective alternative to annual PSA screening for prostate cancer. With annual screening use of an age specific bound for PSA positivity appears to reduce false-positive results and over diagnosis rates sharply relative to a bound of 4 ng./ml. while retaining most of the survival benefits.

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