The relationship between prostate specific antigen (PSA) level and prostate cancer risk remains subject to fundamental disagreements. We hypothesize that the risk of prostate cancer on biopsy for a given PSA level is affected by identifiable characteristics of the cohort under study.
We used data from 5 European and 3 US cohorts of men undergoing biopsy for prostate cancer; six were population-based studies and two were clinical cohorts. The association between PSA and prostate cancer was calculated separately for each cohort using locally-weighted scatterplot smoothing.
The final data set included 25,772 biopsies and 8,503 cancers. There were gross disparities between cohorts with respect to both the prostate cancer risk at a given PSA level and the shape of the risk curve. These disparities were associated with identifiable differences between cohorts: for a given PSA level, a greater number of biopsy cores increased risk of cancer (odds ratio for >6 vs. 6 core biopsy 1.35; 95% C.I. 1.18, 1.54; p<0.0005); recent screening led to a smaller increase in risk per unit change in PSA (p=0.001 for interaction term) and US cohorts had higher risk than the European cohorts (2.14; 95% C.I. 1.99, 2.30; p<0.0005).
Our results suggest that the relationship between PSA and risk of a positive prostate biopsy varies, both in terms of the probability of prostate cancer at a given PSA value and the shape of the risk curve. This poses challenges to the use of PSA-driven algorithms to determine whether biopsy is indicated.
Keywords: prostate cancer, PSA, prediction, multicenter studies, screening