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The UK NSC recommendation on Prostate cancer screening/PSA testing in men over the age of 50

 
Recommendation Systematic population screening programme not recommended
Last review completed November 2020
Next review due in 2023/24
 
Key downloads
 

 

Prostate cancer is a serious public health problem.  Evidence suggests that PSA screening can reduce prostate cancer mortality by 21%. However, strategies to manage the harms of overdiagnosis and overtreatment are not yet known. 

 

Find general information about population health screening.

Why is screening not recommended by UK NSC?

Screening for prostate cancer is currently not recommended in the UK. This is because:

The Test

The PSA test is not accurate enough to detect prostate cancer that needs treatment. It can falsely find men who do not have prostate cancer. It can also miss some cancers. This means that many men might have to undergo unnecessary and often unpleasant tests and/or unnecessary treatment.

It is still unclear if other tests such as an MRI scan, with or without PSA, are accurate enough. Research is also currently looking at whether a method for predicting prostate cancer risk using a combination of a blood test and other information about a man could be more accurate. But more studies are necessary to confirm the early results.

The Intervention

At present, there is no single treatment that is definitely better for patients with early-stage prostate cancer, as treatments’ effectiveness needs to be weighed up against their side effects.

The screening programme

It is unclear how PSA screening impacts deaths due to prostate cancer.

A PSA-based screening programme could harm men as some of them would be diagnosed with a cancer that would not have caused them problems during their life. This would lead to additional tests and treatments which can also have harmful side effects.

More about Prostate Cancer

The prostate is a small gland found in men. It is located in the pelvis between the penis and the bladder. The main function of the prostate is to help in the production of semen. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and usually affects men over the age of 65.

» Read more about prostate cancer on NHS UK

Stakeholders

The British Association for Cancer Research
The British Association of Urological Surgeons
Cancer Black Care
Cancer Research & Genetics UK
Cancer Research UK
CHAPS
Chestnut Appeal
Everyman
Faculty of Public Health
Macmillan
Northern Ireland Cancer Network
Orchid
Primary Care Urology Society
Prostate Cancer UK
Prostate Scotland
Prostate UK
Royal College of General Practitioners
Royal College of Nursing
Royal College of Pathologists
Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Royal College of Radiologists
Royal College of Surgeons
Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
Society and College of Radiographers
Tackle Prostate Cancer
Tenovus

The stakeholder groups will be involved when the recommendation is next reviewed. If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us. More information for stakeholders can be found in appendix C of the UK NSC evidence review process.

Related documents

icon Evidence summary- prostate cancer (2015) (PDF document, 1.26MB, 11/12/19)
icon UK NSC coversheet and consultation responses- prostate cancer (2015) (PDF document, 1.22MB, 11/12/19)

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