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Prostate cases rise to more than 40,000 in UK

Friday May 4th, 2012

The number of men in the UK being diagnosed with prostate cancer has risen to more than 40,000 a year as a result of greater rates of testing for the disease, figures out today have revealed.

Cancer Research UK says the rise in cases – up from 14,000 in 1989 – is linked to greater use of PSA (prostate specific antigen) testing, which measures a chemical produced by the prostate that may be raised when a man has prostate cancer.

PSA testing first started in the UK in about 1989 and since then prostate cancer incidence rates have more than doubled in Britain from 47.4 to 102.9 per 100,000 men.

However, PSA testing is not used as part of a national cancer screening programme because high PSA levels do not necessarily mean that a man has prostate cancer. Research suggests that up to two thirds of men with high PSA levels do not have the disease.

In addition, the test and additional investigations cannot reliably distinguish between aggressive prostate cancers that need treating or slow-growing cancers that may not. This can then lead to unnecessary treatment.

Professor Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research UK’s prostate cancer expert, said: “Accurately diagnosing and predicting the need for treatment of prostate cancer is fraught with difficulties and there is no escaping the fact that we need a better tool than PSA to help detect prostate cancers that actually need treating.

“Men need to be counselled about the upsides and downsides of having a PSA test and the uncertainties that it can raise.

"We urgently need to find better tests that tell us more about a man’s prostate cancer.”

Deaths from prostate cancer have fallen by 11 per cent – from 26.8 to 23.8 per 100,000 men – over the past ten years, thanks to a range of factors, including improvements in the treatments available for prostate cancer, new drugs like docetaxel and more effective radiotherapy.

The reduction can also be attributed to the fact that men are having their prostate cancer being picked up earlier.

Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “Our researchers developed the first man-made hormone to treat the disease and played a pivotal role in improving radiotherapy techniques that are more accurate and effective, saving more men’s lives.

“But we also need new treatments for men with advanced prostate cancer. Cancer Research UK supported the initial development of a drug called abiraterone that is currently going through NICE approval and could be an effective drug for men who have advanced prostate cancer that has come back after chemotherapy.

“We’re also funding projects to improve our understanding of the disease. As part of the International Cancer Genome Consortium, we’re funding a project to sequence all the genes in 250 different prostate cancers, which we hope will pinpoint the genes that are driving them. This could help us identify men who are more likely to have the aggressive form of prostate cancer.”

Tags: Cancer | Menís Health | UK News

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