Routine screening for prostate cancer significantly increases the chances of catching the disease before it spreads, a study has shown.
Screening with the PSA blood test, which detects a prostate protein, has been common in the US since 1993.
But in the UK the test is viewed as unreliable and not linked to a proven increase in survival.
The new study ignored life expectancy and instead focused on the risk of cancer spreading to other parts of the body, or metastasis.
Once prostate cancer reaches this advanced stage it is generally considered incurable.
Scientists analysed data on 1,721 prostate cancer patients who had either surgery or radiation therapy in an attempt to cure them of the disease.
Patients treated before and after the introduction of screening were compared. The percentage of men developing metastatic disease within 10 years of diagnosis was between 8% and 24% higher among those treated before screening, depending on their grade of cancer.
Study leader Chandana Reddy, from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, said: “Our study demonstrates that the PSA test is extremely valuable in catching the disease earlier and allowing men to live more productive lives after treatment.”
The research was presented today at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (Astro) in San Diego, California.