Prostate cancer screening could become personalised after a scientific breakthrough was made by researchers working on a new genetic test.
Scientists at the Icelandic firm deCODE genetics found variations in DNA that alter individual “healthy” levels of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), the blood marker used to diagnose the disease.
Men with RSA readings above a certain threshold currently have samples of their prostate gland removed for testing.
But PSA testing has been criticised as a way of detecting cancer because levels can rise for reasons unrelated to prostate cancer, and normal levels vary significantly between individuals meaning some men undergo needless, painful and worrying biopsies.
However, the new test would make it possible to establish individual PSA thresholds, which could allow for more accurate and meaningful screening.
The research, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, identified six single-letter changes in the genetic code called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs.
Lead researcher Dr Kari Stefansson, chief executive of deCODE, said: “This is straightforward genetics with direct clinical utility.”