A new study by Swedish researchers suggests that nearly half of all prostate cancer deaths could be predicted if a screening test was introduced for men in their late 40s.
In the UK, men can request a free screening test for prostate cancer on the NHS once they are over the age of 50, called prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing.
However, PSA testing can be unreliable, and sometimes gives false positive results which can cause unnecessary worry in those who are misdiagnosed.
But researchers from Lund University in Sweden and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in the US have said that checking men aged 45-9 would predict 44% of all deaths from the disease.
The team looked back at a study which had been carried out between 1974 and 1984. 21,277 Swedish men aged 27-52 donated blood samples at the start, which were then analysed with PSA tests.
After the end of the study period, the PSA readings were compared with what happened to the men to see if there was a correlation between those with a high PSA result and the development of prostate cancer.
The team looked at these results to see if there was an age at which screening was most accurate.
Delaying the test until after age 50 missed too many cancers, and screening below the age of 45 also detected too few.
Screening men between the ages of 45 and 49 successfully spotted 44% of all cancers that went on to become deadly.
Researchers concluded that men should be offered a PSA test on the NHS in their late 40s. Men with a high result could return for more frequent screenings and checks, whilst those with normal results could wait until their 50s.
They wrote: "At least half of all men can be identified as being at low risk and probably need no more than three PSA tests in a lifetime.”
"This is likely to reduce the risk of over-diagnosis while still enabling early cancer detection among those most likely to gain from early diagnosis.”
Dr Anne Mackie, Director of NHS Screening Programmes at Public Health England, said: “We are currently in the process of a scheduled review for a screening programme for prostate cancer and will make a recommendation towards the end of 2013.”
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© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2013