Prostate Cancer: Screening

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 7th March 2018.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of (a) the potential number of cases of prostate cancer which could be identified earlier by a national prostate cancer screening programme and (b) the potential effect such a programme on survival rates.

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The United Kingdom National Screening Committee (UK NSC) last reviewed the evidence about screening for prostate cancer in 2016. Evidence showed that prostate screening can reduce prostate cancer deaths by 27% of the 10,000 lives lost in the UK annually to prostate cancer. No assessment has been made on the potential number of cases identified earlier by a screening programme.

The Committee recommended against a population screening programme. The reasons for this included that the test which is available for use in screening, Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA), is neither very specific nor very sensitive, and is unable to distinguish between slow-growing and fast-growing cancers; there is therefore a risk that a national screening programme would lead to a high number of false positives. There are major harms of treating men who incorrectly test positive (i.e. have false positive tests), these include impotence, incontinence and rectal problems.

The UK NSC will be reviewing the evidence to screen for prostate cancer later in 2018/19. More information will be available at:

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