Prostate Cancer Early Detection

We have prepared a fact box with transparent, up-to-date information about the risks and benefits of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, which include the overall and prostate cancer specific mortality rates for groups that participate in PSA screening and those that do not.

It also specifies which number of PSA screening participants will receive a positive test result even though they do not have prostate cancer (called a false positive result), and how many healthy men were treated unnecessarily due to these false positive results.

PSA Fact Box EN 04-2014
© Harding Center for Risk Literacy

Icon Array visualizing the data

PSA Icon Array EN 04-2014
© Harding Center for Risk Literacy

The Great Prostate Mistake

In an New York Times article, published in March 2010, Richard Ablin, the scientist who discovered PSA in 1970, argues against routine screening as "a profit-driven public health disaster", which in fact is hardly more effective than a coin toss. You can find the whole article here.

In the United States, a recommendation against prostate screening caused an outcry, even though the benefit of these screenings was called into question through objective data.

A study by Hal Arkes and Wolfgang Gaissmaier investigates why people are often more convinced by personal anecdotes than by statistical facts.

Fact boxes

The idea of fact boxes was developed by Lisa Schwartz and Steven Woloshin. In several studies they demonstrated that fact boxes were effective tools for informing the general public about benefits and harms of medical interventions. Read more in the overview.


Ilic et al. (2013) Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Art. No.:CD004720.