Prostate cancer set to become the most common form of the disease in the UK

Prostate cancer is on the rise in the UK. [Photo: Getty]
Prostate cancer is on the rise in the UK. [Photo: Getty]

Prostate cancer may be the most common form of the disease in the UK by 2030, data suggests.

Already the most prevalent tumour among men, nationwide figures compiled by Prostate Cancer UK reveal it is set to become the most common cancer overall as we continue to live longer.

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Prostate Cancer mainly affects men over 50, with the risk increasing as they age. Famous sufferers include Hollywood legend Robert De Niro and former BBC presenter Bill Turnbull.

With the disease developing slowly, many do not require treatment initially, with doctors preferring to “watchfully wait” to see how it progresses.

Nonetheless, prostate cancer can be life-threatening, with the number of deaths exceeding 12,000 in 2017 for the first time.

“By 2030, prostate cancer is set to be the most commonly diagnosed of all cancers in the UK,” Angela Culhane, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, said.

“Before we reach this point, we must ensure as many of these men as possible have their prostate cancer caught early and successfully treated, so their lives are not cut short by the disease.

“The fact deaths from the disease are still reaching record highs serves as a stark reminder of the work yet to do.”

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Around 47,740 new cases of prostate cancer arise every year in the UK, Cancer Research UK statistics show.

This is a 41% jump since the early 1990s.

Overall, survival rates are considered good, with 84% still alive 10 or more years later, an 18% rise since the early 1970s.

Nonetheless, Prostate Cancer UK is urging for more to be done to ward off the disease.

This may include a national screening programme, similar to women being called in for mammograms.

Breast cancer receives around £44m ($57.4m) funding a year, compared to £23m ($30m) for prostate cancer, The Telegraph reported.

This is despite breast cancer fatalities falling from 11,993 to 11,371 a year.

Testing for prostate-specific antigens (PSA) is a controversial subject. [Photo: Getty]
Testing for prostate-specific antigens (PSA) is a controversial subject. [Photo: Getty]

Why is prostate cancer screening controversial?

Prostate cancer can sometimes be cured if treated early via surgery or radiotherapy, according to the NHS.

Yet, this can lead to erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.

With the disease generally being slow growing, many opt to delay treatment until there is risk it may spread.

Prostate Cancer UK argues less than half (47%) of patients are diagnosed early, when there is “a much greater chance of the disease being cured”.

This is “some way” from NHS England’s ambition to have three quarters (75%) of cases spotted in the early stage, the charity adds.

There is no single test for prostate cancer, with doctors usually asking for a urine sample, rectal examination and controversial prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.

Patients made then be referred for an MRI scan and biopsy.

Unlike mammograms or smear tests for cervical cancer, there is no screening programme for prostate tumours.

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PSA screening has been suggested, with levels of the protein sometimes being raised in cancer sufferers.

Yet, up to 15% of patients have normal PSA levels, leading to a false-negative result, according to the NHS.

False-positives, where a test suggests a disease that is not there, can also occur.

PSA tests may also reveal cancer that is slow growing and would not cause symptoms or shorten life.

This may trigger patient anxiety, causing them to opt for unnecessary treatment with side effects.

As a result, Public Health England said in 2016: “[PSA tests are] not accurate enough for the UK National Screening Committee to support it as the basis for a screening programme”.

Prostate Cancer UK argues technological developments mean those with concerning blood tests could be referred for a “multiparametric MRI” (mpMRI) scan before a biopsy.

These create a “more detailed picture of the prostate” than a standard MRI scan, allowing doctors to gauge if there is cancer and how it may develop, according to the charity.

“The aim is to confirm whether improvements in the approach to diagnosis - such as pre-biopsy mpMRI scanning - could mean we have the foundation of a routine screening programme,” Prostate Cancer UK reported.

Ms Culhane added there may be a “tipping point of the balance between harms and benefits” of a screening programme, The Times reported.

The National Screening Committee argued with prostate-cancer treatments causing “nasty side effects”, “we need to be sure we are treating the right men and right cancers”.

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