Benefits and harms of prostate specific antigen testing according to Australian guidelines

Michael Caruana, Roman Gulati, Ruth Etzioni, Alexandra Barratt, Bruce K. Armstrong, Karen Chiam, Visalini Nair-Shalliker, Qingwei Luo, Albert Bang, Paul Grogan, David P. Smith, Dianne L. O'Connell, Karen Canfell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Guidelines for prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing in Australia recommend that men at average risk of prostate cancer who have been informed of the benefits and harms, and who decide to undergo regular testing, should be offered testing every 2 years from 50 to 69 years. This study aimed to estimate the benefits and harms of regular testing in this context. We constructed Policy1-Prostate, a discrete event microsimulation platform of the natural history of prostate cancer and prostate cancer survival, and PSA testing patterns and subsequent management in Australia. The model was calibrated to pre-PSA (before 1985) prostate cancer incidence and mortality and validated against incidence and mortality trends from 1985 to 2011 and international trials. The model predictions were concordant with trials and Australian observed incidence and mortality data from 1985 to 2011. Out of 1000 men who choose to test according to the guidelines, 36 [21-41] men will die from prostate cancer and 126 [119-133] men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, compared with 50 [47-54] and 94 [90-98] men who do not test, respectively. During the 20 years of active PSA testing, 32.3% [25.6%-38.8%] of all PSA-test detected cancers are overdiagnosed cases that is, 30 [21-42] out of 94 [83-107] PSA-test detected cancers. Australian men choosing to test with PSA every two years from 50 to 69 will reduce their risk of ever dying from prostate cancer and incur a risk of overdiagnosis: for every man who avoids dying from prostate cancer, two will be overdiagnosed with prostate cancer between 50 and 69 years of age. Australian men, with health professionals, can use these results to inform decision-making about PSA testing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)648-658
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number4
Early online date23 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2024


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