A large study of older men has shown that screening for prostate cancer can halve the mortality rate from the disease.
In a paper presented in the Lancet Oncology this week, 20,000 men born between 1930 and 1944 were randomly recruited and assigned either to control or intervention groups.
In the latter case, which involved 9952 recruits, the participants were invited to attend biannually for a blood test to measure the level of a chemical called PSA (prostate specific antigen), which is known to increase in cases of cancer. After a 14 year follow-up period the results were analysed.
Over this time, 1138 cancers had been picked up amongst the screening group, compared with 718 amongst the controls. The mortality rates between the two groups were almost 50% lower in those who were screened.
The analysis also shows that for each life saved, 238 men need to be screened and 12 cases of cancer detected, figures which compare favourably against breast cancer for which there are established screening protocols in many western countries.