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Annu Rev Public Health. 1995;16:283-306.

PSA screening: a public health dilemma.

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Center for Health Studies, Group Health Cooperative, Seattle, WA 98101, USA.


Screening for prostate cancer with serum prostate specific antigen (PSA) is one of the most controversial practices in health care today and guidelines from professional and policy organizations are contradictory. Prostate cancer is unique because of a wide discrepancy between prevalent asymptomatic cancer and clinical disease and an uncertain natural history. Proponents and critics of mass screening agree that PSA can detect early cancer and that definitive data that PSA reduces prostat cancer mortality are not available. Differences in screening recommendations reflect distinct viewpoints regarding what constitutes screening benefit and what level of evidence is needed to endorse a screening practice. This review describes what is known about the areas most relevant to the conflicting perspectives: the epidemiology and natural history of prostate cancer, the ability of PSA to detect disease and operational characteristics of PSA as a screening test, and the efficacy of treatment of early disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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