Government response

Prostate cancer awareness programme campaign

The department's response to recommendations from UK National Screening Committee against a screening programme for prostate cancer.

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The UK National Screening Committee recently examined and consulted on the international peer-reviewed evidence regarding prostate cancer screening. The committee recommended against a systematic population screening programme for prostate cancer.

This is because the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a poor test for prostate cancer. It will erroneously tell large numbers of men that they do not have cancer when in fact they do, and also tell large numbers of men that they have cancer when most would never be harmed by it. Additionally, there is still an incomplete understanding of which cancers are aggressive and require treatment and which are safe to watch and wait.

There is a significant amount of research activity aimed at better understanding both aspects, but currently the evidence suggests that a systematic screening programme would do more harm than good. That being the case, the government believes that an awareness campaign aimed at increasing the number of men taking the PSA test would not help the population of men.

Public Health England (PHE) recognises that many people will find this situation unsatisfactory. It has produced evidence-based information for GPs and men exploring the pros and cons of having a PSA test to give them the best information and therefore allow them to make up their own minds. Further information on the Prostate Cancer Risk Management Programme is available.

PHE is currently updating this information with front-line clinicians and men who have been affected by the disease. Any man who is concerned should discuss their health and the PSA test with their GP.

Published 5 February 2016