Disease-specific mortality may underestimate the total effect of prostate cancer screening
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Objectives To study the difference between the disease-specific and excess mortality rate in the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer section Rotterdam. Methods A total of 42,376 men were randomized to systematic screening or usual care. The excess number of deaths was defined as the difference between the observed number of deaths in the prostate cancer (PC) patients and the expected number of deaths up to 31 December 2006. The expected number was derived from mortality of all study participants before a possible diagnosis with PC. The disease-specific mortality rate was based on the number of men who died from PC. The excess mortality rate based on the arm-specific excess number of deaths and the disease-specific mortality rate were compared between the two study arms. Results The overall mortality rate was not significantly different between the intervention and the control arms of the study: RR 1.02 (95% CI 0.98-1.07). The disease-specific mortality rate was 0.42 men per 1000 person-years in the intervention and 0.48 men per 1000 person-years in the control arm: RR 0.86 (95% CI 0.64-1.17). The excess mortality rate was 0.40 per 1000 personyears in the intervention arm and 0.61 men per 1000 person-years in the control arm, and the RR for excess mortality was 0.66 (95% CI 0.39-1.13). Conclusions In contrast to the disease-specific mortality rates an increased difference in the excess mortality rates was observed between the two arms. This observation may be due to a systematic underestimation of the disease-specific deaths, and/or an additional disease-related mortality that is measured by an excess mortality analysis but not by a disease-specific mortality.