Following years of controversy regarding screening for prostate cancer using prostate-specific antigen, evidence evolves towards a more restrained and preference-based use. This study reports the impact of landmark trials and updated recommendations on the incidence rate of prostate cancer screening by Swiss general practitioners.

We performed a retrospective analysis of primary care data, separated in 3 time periods based on dates of publications of important prostate-specific antigen screening recommendations. 1: 2010-mid 2012 including 2 updates; 2: mid 2012-mid 2014 including a Smarter Medicine recommendation; 3: mid-2014-mid-2017 maintenance period. Period 2 including the Smarter Medicine recommendation was defined as reference period. We further assessed the influence of patient’s age and the number of prostate-specific-antigen (PSA) tests, by the patient and within each time period, on the mean PSA concentration. Uni- and multivariable analyses were used as needed.

36,800 men aged 55 to 75 years were included. 14.6% had ≥ 2 chronic conditions, 11.7% had ≥ 1 prostate-specific antigen test, (mean 2.60 ng/ml [SD 12.3]). 113,921 patient-years were covered. Data derived from 221 general practitioners, 33.5% of GP were women, mean age was 49.4 years (SD 10.0), 67.9% used prostate-specific antigen testing. Adjusted incidence rate-ratio (95%-CI) dropped significantly over time periods: Reference Period 2: incidence rate-ratio 1.00; Period 1: incidence rate-ratio 1.74 (1.59-1.90); Period 3: incidence rate-ratio 0.61 (0.56-0.67). A higher number of chronic conditions and a patient age between 60-69 years were significantly associated with higher screening rate. Increasing numbers of PSA testing per patient, as well as increasing age, were independently and significantly associated with an increase in the PSA value.

Swiss general practitioners adapted screening behavior as early as evidence of a limited health benefit evolved, while using a risk-adapted approach whenever performing multiple testing. Updated recommendations might have helped to maintain this decrease. Further recommendations and campaigns should aimed at older patients with multimorbidity, to sustain a further decline in prostate-specific antigen screening practices.

PloS one. 2019 Jun 13*** epublish ***

Stefan Zechmann, Stefania Di Gangi, Vladimir Kaplan, Rahel Meier, Thomas Rosemann, Fabio Valeri, Oliver Senn, FIRE Study Group

Institute of Primary Care, University of Zurich, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland., Department of Internal Medicine, Hospital Muri, Muri, Switzerland.