Screening for prostate cancer: An updated Cochrane systematic review

Dragan Ilic, Denise O'Connor, Sally Green, Timothy J. Wilt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

147 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To determine whether screening for prostate cancer reduces prostate cancer-specific mortality, impact on all-cause mortality and patient health-related quality of life. MATERIALS AND METHODS: An update to our 2006 Cochrane systematic review was performed by rerunning an updated search of several databases, including MEDLINE and the Cochrane CENTRAL Register of Controlled Trials. • Articles were included if they were a randomized controlled trial (RCT) examining screening vs no screening for prostate cancer. Data was collected and analysed according to the methods outlined in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. RESULTS: Five RCTs with a total of 341 351 participants were included in this updated Cochrane systematic review. All involved PSA testing, although the interval and threshold for further evaluation varied across trials. The age of participants was 50-74 years, with durations of patient follow-up of 7-15 years. • The methodological quality of three of the studies was assessed as posing a high risk of bias. • Meta-analysis of the five included studies indicated no statistically significant difference in prostate cancer-specific mortality between men randomized to screening and control [relative risk (RR) 0.95, 95% CI 0.85-1.07]. Sub-group analyses indicated that prostate cancer-specific mortality was not affected by age at which participants were screened. A preplanned analysis of a 'core' age group of men aged 55-69 years from the largest RCT (European Randomised Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer) reported a significant 20% relative reduction in prostate cancer-specific mortality; (95% CI 0.65-0.98; absolute risk 0.71 per 1000 men). The number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer was significantly greater in men randomized to screening, compared with those randomized to control (RR 1.35, 95% CI 1.06-1.72). • Harms of screening included high rates of false-positive results for the PSA test, over-diagnosis and adverse events associated with transrectal ultrasonography guided biopsies such as infection, bleeding and pain. CONCLUSIONS: Prostate cancer screening did not significantly decrease all-cause or prostate cancer-specific mortality in a combined meta-analysis of five RCTs. • Any benefits from prostate cancer screening may take > 10 years to accrue; therefore, men who have a life expectancy of < 10-15 years should be informed that screening for prostate cancer is not beneficial and has harms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)882-891
Number of pages10
JournalBJU International
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Prostate cancer
  • Screening
  • Systematic review


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