Big rise in incidence of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is now affecting more than 40,000 men a year in the UK, new figures have shown.

The number of men dying from the disease each year remains unchanged, at about 10,000 a year.

In 2009, around 40,800 British men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, the charity Cancer Research UK reported. That compares with a figure of just 14,000 two decades earlier in 1989.

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Much of the increase is due to more men having blood tests for the prostate cancer biomarker Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), say experts.

PSA testing first started in the UK in around 1989. Since then prostate cancer incidence rates have more than doubled from 47.4 to 102.9 per 100,000 men in the UK population.

However, PSA testing is not used as part of a national screening programme because of doubts about its reliability.

Research suggests that up to two thirds of men with high PSA levels do not have prostate cancer.

Diagnosis of the disease is only confirmed after analysis of biopsy tissue samples. In some cases, the cancer is so slow growing that no radical treatment is necessary. In others, early surgery or radiotherapy is vital.

Professor Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research UK’s prostate cancer expert, said: “We urgently need to find better tests that tell us more about a man’s prostate cancer. Is the disease going to sit quietly in the background and never cause a problem or do we need to treat it aggressively? If we can accurately answer these questions, we could spare thousands of men unnecessary treatment that can lead to side effects like impotence and incontinence.”

During the last 10 years UK death rates from prostate cancer have fallen by 11 per cent, from 26.8 to 23.8 per 100,000 men. This is due to a range of factors, including improvements in available treatments.