Blood test can accurately predict death from prostate cancer

Researchers discovered a biomarker that can predict if men will die from prostate cancer.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center found that a blood test given to men who are 60 can tell if they will die from prostate cancer up to 25 years in advance.

It's the leading cause of death for men behind lung cancer. 1 out of every 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.

"We know that screening detects many prostate cancers that are not harmful, leading to anxiety and unnecessary treatment. It is our ability to determine the risk of the really aggressive cancers that makes this approach of such great potential value," Sloan-Kettering's researcher Andrew Vickers said in a statement.

After studying blood samples from a thousand men born in 1921 — part of the Malmo Preventive Project in early 1980s— scientists found that the men who had high levels of PSA were the ones who were likely to die from prostate cancer. Indeed, the majority of the men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer had the top 25 percent PSA levels. And those who had PSA levels below 1 ng / ml, basically had no chance of dying from prostate cancer.

The researchers found that half the men fell into this low level PSA range. Distinquishing which cancers are more aggressive could help researchers treat individual cases accordingly.

However, there's evidence that PSA tests don't reduce deaths — and perhaps we should starting screening later at age 60 instead of 40.

According to WebMD:

"When we do routine mass screening for prostate cancer there are winners and losers," Andriole said to WebMD. "Some men clearly benefit from early detection and early treatment. But other men are losers. They are diagnosed with a cancer, undergo unnecessary treatment and have side effects, and they go through all pain and anxiety associated with having cancer."

In other news, researchers found that biomarkers can diagnose Alzheimer's disease long before it manifests. And as I mentioned this week, biomarkers associated with cancer were found in swimmers who soaked themselves in chlorine-drenched pools.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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