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Prostate cancer test cuts deaths by a fifth

Screening men for prostate cancer could reduce deaths from the disease by a fifth despite doubts about the diagnostic test used, a major study has found.

The positive effect of screening increased over time, the research involving more than 162,000 men showed.

Over a period of nine years, screening reduced the number of men dying from prostate cancer by 15pc, increasing to 22pc after 11 years.

During the whole 13-year follow-up period, the risk of death was 21pc lower in men who were screened than in those who were not.

Biomarker

Screening for prostate cancer is controversial because the initial diagnostic test patients have, to measure blood levels of the biomarker prostate specific antigen (PSA), is so unreliable.

Higher than normal PSA readings can be obtained from healthy men, and low readings from individuals with cancer.

The European Randomised study of Screening for Prostate Cancer recruited men aged 50 to 74 from eight European countries - Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Even though the findings demonstrated that screening reduced deaths, the authors said it was still too soon to introduce population-wide screening.

The findings are published in The Lancet medical journal.

Advanced types of MRI scans may offer a way of diagnosing aggressive prostate cancers.

hnews@herald.ie


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