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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Urology 1/2018

Cost implications of PSA screening differ by age

BMC Urology > Ausgabe 1/2018
Karthik Rao, Stella Liang, Michael Cardamone, Corinne E. Joshu, Kyle Marmen, Nrupen Bhavsar, William G. Nelson, H. Ballentine Carter, Michael C. Albert, Elizabeth A. Platz, Craig E. Pollack
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12894-018-0344-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Multiple guidelines seek to alter rates of prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-based prostate cancer screening. The costs borne by payers associated with PSA-based screening for men of different age groups—including the costs of screening and subsequent diagnosis, treatment, and adverse events—remain uncertain. We sought to develop a model of PSA costs that could be used by payers and health care systems to inform cost considerations under a range of different scenarios.


We determined the prevalence of PSA screening among men aged 50 and higher using 2013-2014 data from a large, multispecialty group, obtained reimbursed costs associated with screening, diagnosis, and treatment from a commercial health plan, and identified transition probabilities for biopsy, diagnosis, treatment, and complications from the literature to generate a cost model. We estimated annual total costs for groups of men ages 50-54, 55-69, and 70+ years, and varied annual prostate cancer screening prevalence in each group from 5 to 50% and tested hypothetical examples of different test characteristics (e.g., true/false positive rate).


Under the baseline screening patterns, costs of the PSA screening represented 10.1% of the total costs; costs of biopsies and associated complications were 23.3% of total costs; and, although only 0.3% of all screen eligible patients were treated, they accounted for 66.7% of total costs. For each 5-percentage point decrease in PSA screening among men aged 70 and older for a single calendar year, total costs associated with prostate cancer screening decreased by 13.8%. For each 5-percentage point decrease in PSA screening among men 50-54 and 55-69 years old, costs were 2.3% and 7.3% lower respectively.


With constrained financial resources and with national pressure to decrease use of clinically unnecessary PSA-based prostate cancer screening, there is an opportunity for cost savings, especially by focusing on the downstream costs disproportionately associated with screening men 70 and older.
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