A simple blood test which confirms the presence of prostate cancer could prevent 70 per cent of painful biopsies, scientists believe.
Researchers at Nottingham Trent University and University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust have discovered that the immune system changes when cancer is present, and that difference can be picked up in the blood.
Nearly 50,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in Britain, while many thousands more will develop symptoms which will turn out to be harmless.
“This test has the potential to spare men with non-cancerous disease or low-risk cancer from unnecessary invasive diagnostic procedures and tests,” said Professor Masood Khan, consultant urologist at University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust and Visiting Professor at Nottingham Trent.
Men are currently screened for the potential presence of prostate cancer using a blood test which look for prostate specific antigen, a biomarker which rises when the disease is present in the prostate.
However readings vary between individuals and naturally rise as people age.
The current test is further complicated by the fact that elevated levels of the antigen do not necessarily mean that the man has prostate cancer, while a normal reading does not exclude its presence.