Two recently reported large-scale trials conducted in the United States and western Europe have provided evidence that coordinated screening programs will not reduce mortality in countries or regions where prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing is already highly prevalent, but will reduce mortality in places where PSA testing prevalence is low.
The trials also produce evidence that coordinated screening will cause over-diagnosis and over-treatment.
The instigation of a national screening program should be delayed until a more specific marker for aggressive disease than PSA level becomes available. In the meantime, results of the two trials can be used to inform the development of regional testing policies in Australia.
These policies should encourage regular PSA testing in regions with low testing prevalence, but must also embrace methods of dealing with over-diagnosis and over-treatment.
“Active surveillance” programs (whereby men with early-stage cancers are monitored regularly by PSA testing and digital rectal examinations) and development of counselling services should be encouraged.
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