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Rise in prostate cancer detection rates predicted

Prostate cancer rates are set to treble since 1990 as more men are tested for the disease and live to an older age.

Boys born in 2015 will be almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with the cancer during their lives than those born in 1990, according to a new report.

Cancer Research UK has released updated figures showing a predicted increase in the lifetime risk of prostate cancer from 5% of in 1990 to just over 14% in 2015.

The change is largely due to more men undergoing tests for Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), the blood marker for the disease.

PSA testing is much more widespread than it used to be and has rapidly boosted the number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Around 41,000 men in the UK are given the diagnosis each year today compared with 15,000 a quarter of a century ago.

Men are being tested at younger ages, improving the chances of catching the disease early. At the same time, increasing lifespan means larger numbers of men are living to an age when prostate cancer is likely to develop.

Death rates from prostate cancer in the UK have fallen 18% in the last 20 years, partly because of earlier diagnosis. Today, around 10,700 British men die from the disease each year.

Improved survival is also likely to be due to changes in treatment.

Hormone treatments that prevent male hormones fuelling prostate tumours is more widespread and prescribed earlier today than it was in the early 1990s.

Recently, a range of new hormone treatments have been developed that can help prolong life. They include the drug abiraterone which last year was approved for NHS patients with advanced disease.

Professor Malcom Mason, Cancer Research UK’s leading prostate cancer expert, said: “We’re detecting more cases of prostate cancer than ever before. And we’re carrying out an intensive amount of research to find better methods than PSA to distinguish between the minority of cases that are life threatening and do need treatment - the vipers - from the majority of cases that don’t - the grass snakes. But there is much more to be done.

“Targeting the tests at men who have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer might be a better approach than screening all men. Research has already saved lives from prostate cancer. But there is uncertainty over the best approach to treating some forms of the disease.

“Surgery and radiotherapy - with their potential side effects - is one option, to be balanced against the option of careful monitoring with regular check-ups.”

The charity’s chief executive Dr Harpal Kumar said: “Thanks to people’s generosity, our world-class scientists are leading the way to understand why some cancers are aggressive and others aren’t.

“We need to build on the great progress already made and develop more targeted treatments for those men whose disease is life-threatening. We also need to develop better tests that will help us to know when to leave harmless forms of the disease alone.”

 

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