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Screening: prostate cancer

24 March 2022
Volume 31 · Issue 6

In the UK it is estimated there are 52 300 new prostate cancer cases annually. It is the most common cancer among males, with the highest incidence in men aged 75–79 years. Between 2014 and 2035, UK rates are projected to rise by 12%, to 233 cases per 100 000. Prostate cancer is more common in black males than white males, and is least common in Asian males (Cancer Research UK, 2021).

Population screening is the process of identifying apparently healthy people who might have an increased chance of a disease or condition. The screening provider then offers further tests and/or treatment. The aim is to enable choices and reduce associated problems or complications.

Currently, the UK has no screening programme for prostate cancer. The debate on screening is long-standing, as it has not been proven that benefits would outweigh risks. To be effective screening programmes need to use tests that are reliable and able to detect cancers or abnormal changes that could lead to cancer. They need to be valid (to detect all those with disease and identify correctly those free of it) and be acceptable, so people will take them. They must not be dangerous to health and must be cost-effective. Not all screening tests are perfect and some carry risks.

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