National Prostate Biopsy and Radical Prostatectomy Volumes Decreased Significantly Following Recommendation against PSA Screening

Nov 2, 2016

New York

A new study has found that the rate of prostate biopsies and radical prostatectomies decreased following a 2012 United States Preventative Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation against prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing. Researchers from NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine share their findings in this week’s JAMA Surgery.

Prostate biopsies and radical prostatectomies are used to test for and treat prostate cancer, respectively. These procedures typically occur when a patient is found to have elevated PSA levels. The USPSTF recommended against PSA testing in 2012 as a result of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) trial due to concerns about over-diagnosis and over-treatment for non-life threatening cancers, but earlier this year, NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine researchers argued that the methodology behind that study was flawed in a perspective piece for the New England Journal of Medicine.

“This is the first study to evaluate national trends in both procedures following the USPSTF recommendation, which we now believe to be based on faulty methodology,” said Dr. Jim Hu, director of the LeFrak Center for Robotic Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and the Ronald Lynch Professor of Urologic Oncology at Weill Cornell Medicine.

The researchers looked at the volume of prostate biopsies and radical prostatectomies performed by urologists from 2009 to 2016. Prior to the USPTF’s recommendation in 2012, the median number of biopsies performed per urologist per year was 29, and the median number of radical prostatectomies was seven per urologist per year. After the recommendation, those figures dropped to 21 biopsies and six radical prostatectomies per urologist per year, an overall decrease of 28.7 percent and 16.2 percent respectively. The significant drop in these figures may mean that some potentially life-threatening cancers went undiagnosed or untreated. The same investigators demonstrated in European Urology that during the same study period, men are more likely to have prostate cancer spread to the lymph nodes during radical prostatectomy following the recommendation against PSA screening.

Prostate cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death among American men and is the most common cancer in men other than skin cancer. However, some prostate cancers are less aggressive than others, and urologists may recommend forgoing treatment in favor of active surveillance since treatment may cause side effects for patients and decrease their overall quality of life. Moreover, with slow-growing prostate cancers and advanced age, some men are more likely to die with, rather than from, their prostate cancers. However, the declining number of biopsies overall was accompanied by a 29 percent increase in the proportion of biopsies performed due to active surveillance, or monitoring slow-growing prostate cancers.

“We hope that this study engenders further discussion and reevaluation of the USPSTF recommendation regarding PSA screening, particularly in light of additional research from our group demonstrating the pitfalls of the trial upon which this recommendation was based,” said Dr. Hu, who is a member of the Speakers’ 18 Bureau for Intuitive Surgical and Genomic Health. “Physicians and policy makers must understand the potential consequences of the USPSTF and other screening recommendations in order to inform future policy and clinical guidelines. Patients should continue to have discussions with their physicians regarding the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening on an individualized basis.”

The study includes authors from NewYork-Presbyterian, Weill Cornell Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.


NewYork-Presbyterian is one of the nation’s most comprehensive healthcare delivery networks, focused on providing innovative and compassionate care to patients in the New York metropolitan area and throughout the globe. In collaboration with two renowned medical school partners, Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, NewYork-Presbyterian is consistently recognized as a leader in medical education, groundbreaking research and clinical innovation.

NewYork-Presbyterian has four major divisions: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is ranked #1 in the New York metropolitan area by U.S. News and World Report and repeatedly named to the magazine’s Honor Roll of best hospitals in the nation; NewYork-Presbyterian Regional Hospital Network is comprised of leading hospitals in and around New York and delivers high-quality care to patients throughout the region; NewYork-Presbyterian Physician Services connects medical experts with patients in their communities; and NewYork-Presbyterian Community and Population Health features the hospital’s ambulatory care network sites and operations, community care initiatives and healthcare quality programs, including NewYork Quality Care, established by NewYork-Presbyterian, Weill Cornell and Columbia.

NewYork-Presbyterian is one of the largest healthcare providers in the U.S. Each year, nearly 29,000 NewYork-Presbyterian professionals deliver exceptional care to more than 2 million patients.

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Weill Cornell Medicine

Weill Cornell Medicine is committed to excellence in patient care, scientific discovery and the education of future physicians in New York City and around the world. The doctors and scientists of Weill Cornell Medicine—faculty from Weill Cornell Medical College, Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, and Weill Cornell Physician Organization—are engaged in world-class clinical care and cutting-edge research that connect patients to the latest treatment innovations and prevention strategies. Located in the heart of the Upper East Side’s scientific corridor, Weill Cornell Medicine’s powerful network of collaborators extends to its parent university Cornell University; to Qatar, where an international campus offers a U.S. medical degree; and to programs in Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Weill Cornell Medicine faculty provide comprehensive patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian/Queens. Weill Cornell Medicine is also affiliated with Houston Methodist. For more information, visit

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