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OBJECTIVE: Measurement of serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) for the detection of prostate cancer has poor specificity in men with PSA levels between 2 and 10 ng/ml. It has been suggested that measurement of the ratio of free to total PSA (f/tPSA) or complexed PSA (cPSA) might offer an improvement. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the diagnostic performance of these tests among men with PSA levels between 2 and 10 ng/ml. METHODS: Data on sensitivity and specificity were extracted from 66 eligible studies. Likelihood ratios and summary receiver operating characteristic curves were estimated and possible sources of heterogeneity between studies examined. RESULTS: Use of the f/tPSA or the cPSA test improved diagnostic performance among men with a total PSA (tPSA) of 2-4 or 4-10 ng/ml compared to tPSA alone. The diagnostic performance of the f/tPSA test was significantly higher in the tPSA range of 4-10 ng/ml compared to a tPSA range of 2-4 ng/ml (p < 0.01); at a sensitivity of 95%, the specificity was 18% in the 4-10 ng/ml tPSA range and 6% in the 2-4 ng/ml tPSA range. Among studies that measured both isoforms, the diagnostic performance of the f/tPSA test and the cPSA was equivalent in both PSA ranges. CONCLUSIONS: The use of the f/tPSA or cPSA test among men with PSA levels between 2 and 10 ng/ml can reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies whilst maintaining a high cancer detection rate.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Urol

Publication Date





386 - 399


Humans, Likelihood Functions, Male, Prostate-Specific Antigen, Prostatic Neoplasms, ROC Curve, Sensitivity and Specificity