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Genetic links can help men with higher risk of prostate cancer get early diagnosis, research suggests

  • Fifth of annual suspected prostate cancer referrals could be fast-tracked
  • Another 40 per cent could avoid referral and invasive biopsies 
  • Survival rates would be improved if men at most risk were fast-tracked 
  • Would lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer  

Men at high risk of developing prostate cancer could be diagnosed earlier if genetic weaknesses were considered by GPs, research reveals.

A fifth of annual suspected prostate cancer referrals could be fast-tracked for investigation, while another 40 per cent could avoid referral and invasive biopsies if a genetic risk for cancer was included into GP triage.

Fast-tracking men at most risk could lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment, improving survival rates.

A fifth of annual suspected prostate cancer referrals could be fast-tracked for investigation, zma power supplements while another 40 per cent could avoid referral and invasive biopsies if a genetic risk for cancer was included into GP triage (stock image)

GPs make about 800,000 suspected prostate cancer referrals annually in the UK. Some 160,000 men could be fast-tracked and 320,000 could avoid referral if genetic risk was considered as a factor, according to the study by the University of Exeter, published in the British Journal of Cancer.

The team combined more than 250 known genetic variants linked to the disease into a single ‘score’ to describe an individual’s genetic risk of developing prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer accounts for around a quarter of new cancer cases in men – about 52,000 men are diagnosed every year in the UK alone.

It is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men, and five-year survival doubles if it is diagnosed at an early stage.

Men are two-and-a-half times more likely to get prostate cancer if their father or brother has had it, according to Prostate Cancer UK. The chances of getting it may be greater if their father or brother was under 60 when diagnosed, or if they have more than one close relative with it.

Lead author Dr Harry Green, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: ‘Our study is the first to demonstrate that incorporating genetic risk into GP’s risk assessment of patients’ symptoms of possible prostate cancer could result in faster referral for those at most risk.’

Men are two-and-a-half times more likely to get prostate cancer if their father or brother has had it, according to Prostate Cancer UK (stock image)

Current prostate cancer indicator tests give false positives in two thirds of cases, meaning thousands endure invasive and painful biopsies.

Lead author Dr Harry Green, of the University of Exeter Medical School, pictured, said that the study is the first to illustrate that incorporating genetic risk could result in faster referrals

The tests can also miss about 15 per cent of cancers, research shows.

One man who shared his story with researchers endured 18 months’ anxiety. Richard Westlake, 74, a retired train driver, was alerted in November 2015 that night-time trips to the toilet might be a sign of the condition.

His all-clear did not come until June 2017. 

He said: ‘If this new way of assessing patients could cut down on the number of men who have to experience that, I think it would have huge benefits.’

Dusko Ilic, Professor of Stem Cell Science, King’s College London, said: ‘A much simpler and significantly cheaper blood test for prostate-specific antigen, that is already in place, has more value as a biomarker in diagnosis of prostate cancer.’

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