Context: Despite widespread use of serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing to detect prostate cancer, the relative effectiveness of different PSA screening strategies is unknown. Objective: To compare prostate cancer mortality, PSA testing rates, and biopsy rates using various PSA screening strategies, including the standard strategy of annually testing men aged 50 through 75 years. Design and Setting: A Monte-Carlo simulation based on a Markov model was used to simulate the natural history of prostate cancer using different starting ages, testing intervals, and PSA thresholds for prostate biopsy. Age-specific PSA levels and prostate biopsy detection probabilities were determined from population data and surgical series. Main Outcome Measures: Numbers of prevented prostate cancer deaths, PSA tests, and prostate biopsies per 1000 men aged 40 through 80 years, compared among 7 different strategies vs no screening. Results: Compared with annual PSA testing beginning at age 50 years, the strategy of PSA testing at ages 40 and 45 years followed by biennial testing beginning at age 50 years was estimated to simultaneously reduce prostate cancer mortality and number of PSA tests and biopsies performed per 1000 men. Specifically, compared with no screening, the standard strategy prevents 3.2 deaths, with an additional 10500 PSA tests and 600 prostate biopsies, while the earlier but less frequent strategy prevents 3.3 deaths, with an additional 7500 PSA tests and 450 prostate biopsies. Strategies that lowered the PSA threshold for prostate biopsy to below 4.0 ng/mL or strategies that used age-specific PSA levels were not more efficient than use of a PSA threshold of 4.0 ng/mL. These 2 findings remained true under all sensitivity analyses performed to test assumptions of the model. Conclusion: Recognizing that the efficacy of PSA screening is unproved, the standard strategy of annual PSA screening beginning at age 50 years appears to be less effective and more resource intensive compared with a strategy that begins earlier but screens biennially instead of annually.
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