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Semen test for prostate cancer

Men could be tested for prostate cancer in future by studying samples of their semen, it was claimed yesterday.

Scientists have developed a new three-minute test for disease that relies on shining light through fluid from the prostate gland.

At present the test has to be carried out on biopsy samples obtained by inserting a needle into the prostate.

But experts hope further development will lead to a simple test of semen, half of which is composed of prostate fluid.

Each year around 35,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK and 10,000 men die from the disease.

There is no national screening programme for prostate cancer, largely due to the lack of a reliable test.

The standard PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood marker test often gives false results. As a result patients may be wrongly led to believe they have cancer, or cancers can be missed.

The new test developed by British and US scientists including a team from the University of Durham measures the wavelength of light as it is shone through diluted samples of prostate fluid.

Levels of a substance called citrate in the samples provide an indicator of prostate cancer. Concentrations decrease sharply from a normal range of 50 to 200 millimoles to between two and 20 millimoles in men with the disease.

Professor David Parker, from the Chemistry Department at Durham University, said: “Citrate provides a significant biomarker for disease that may provide a reliable method for screening and detecting prostate cancer, and for the monitoring of people with the disease. This technique could form the basis of a simple screening procedure for prostate cancer that could be used in outpatient departments at local hospitals.”

A portable testing device has been developed that can give results in three minutes.

John Neate, chief executive of The Prostate Cancer Charity, said: “This is early stage research, with the citrate levels of only 20 samples being tested. The results of a biopsy take around two weeks to come back to a patient and the main benefit of this new potential test would be one of speed. If the findings of further research in a large group of men remain consistent with these early results, the test could add something beneficial to the diagnostic tools currently available. Men could have a clearer idea of whether they have the disease, before the biopsy results confirm this. The full biopsy results would still be necessary, however, to confirm whether a man has an aggressive or non-aggressive form of the disease.

A research paper on the test appears in the journal Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry.

* This article is from the Belfast Telegraph.