Half of prostate cancer screening patients are given false positive results using the PSA test according to estimates (Schröder et al. 2009).

The rate of overdiagnosis of prostate cancer (defined as the diagnosis in men who would not have clinical symptoms during their lifetime) has been estimated to be as high as 50% in the screening group.30 Consistent estimates of overdiagnosis (a third of cancers detected on screening) have also been obtained by identifying potentially indolent prostate cancers on the basis of clinical and pathological characteristics.31-33 Overdiagnosis and overtreatment are probably the most important adverse effects of prostate-cancer screening and are vastly more common than in screening for breast, colorectal, or cervical cancer. 34

There is the digital rectal exam (DRE) but there are concerns within some groups that this can create false negatives (Jones et al. 2018).

The PSA test seems to have been available since 1987 (Stamey et al. 1987), and seemingly DREs started from an earlier time (Torp-Pedersen, et al. 1988).

With PSA tests producing so many false positives, that induces worry in many men who don't necessarily need to, and the false negatives with DREs are definitely unwanted.

Has a more reliable test been developed for diagnostic screening for prostate cancer?


Jones, D., Friend, C., Dreher, A., Allgar, V., & Macleod, U. (2018). The diagnostic test accuracy of rectal examination for prostate cancer diagnosis in symptomatic patients: a systematic review. BMC family practice, 19(1), 1-6. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12875-018-0765-y

Schröder, F. H., Hugosson, J., Roobol, M. J., Tammela, T. L., Ciatto, S., Nelen, V., ... & Auvinen, A. (2009). Screening and prostate-cancer mortality in a randomized European study. New England journal of medicine, 360(13), 1320-1328. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa0810084

Stamey, T. A., Yang, N., Hay, A. R., McNeal, J. E., Freiha, F. S., & Redwine, E. (1987). Prostate-specific antigen as a serum marker for adenocarcinoma of the prostate. New England Journal of Medicine, 317(15), 909-916. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJM198710083171501

Torp-Pedersen, S. T., Littrup, P. J., Lee, F., & Mettlin, C. (1988). Early prostate cancer: diagnostic costs of screening transrectal US and digital rectal examination. Radiology, 169(2), 351-354. https://doi.org/10.1148/radiology.169.2.3140290

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.