Prostate cancer to hit one in four

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The Independent Online
Prostate cancer, which will strike one in four men by 2018,is threatening to overtake lung cancer as the most common type of cancer diagnosed in the United Kingdom, the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) warned yesterday.

Despite the high incidence, less than pounds 1m is spent each year on research into the disease, which claimed the rock star Frank Zappa and former Goon, Michael Bentine, compared with pounds 16m spent on breast cancer and pounds 15m spent on Aids research.

Launching a new campaign "Everyman", the ICR said it desperately needed pounds 3m to set up the UK's first male cancer research centre. The campaign also hopes to raise the profile of prostate and testicular cancers encouraging men to find out more about them, discuss the issues and not to hide behind their embarrassment.

About 16,000 men develop prostate cancer every year, from which around 11,000 will die. Today one in ten men can expect to get prostate cancer and in 20 years' time the disease will affect one man in four.

"Prostate cancer has been neglected," said Professor Colin Cooper, of the ICR, describing it as "one of the major health concerns in the UK". "Often it is perceived as a disease of old men who do not have long to live and so it has not been attacked with the urgency that has gone into finding a cure for breast and cervical cancer. Men as young as 40 may die of prostate cancer, while many older men who have the disease might expect to live for an extra 10 or even 20 years if they were cured of it."

The incidence of testicular cancer, which occurs mainly in men aged 24- 35, has also been doubling every 20 years with 1,500 men developing the disease in 1996. More than 95 per cent of tumours can be cured when caught at an early stage.

Cancer, particularly male cancers, remain a "forbidden subject" among men, according to Clare Moynihan medical sociologist at the ICR. "Men often deny the problem," she said. "One man whose father and brother died of prostate cancer said he was so frightened he just didn't want to know anything about it. He preferred to leave it to fate."

Little is still known about why men develop prostate or testicular cancer. Prostate is thought to be linked to environment or diet, while it has been suggested that exposure to oestrogens could cause testicular cancer as well as genetic predispositions.

A controversial blood test, known as the PSA (prostate specific antigen), became available 15 years ago. PSA measures the level of a protein produced by all prostate cells.

In general, a reading of four indicates cancer is unlikely, with the probability of disease increasing with a rising count up to 22. Over 22, cancer is highly likely. As men age, their prostates grow larger and the count rises anyway - but a dramatic rise is indicative of cancer. However, earlier this year mass screening was effectively ruled out after researchers concluded that a current test is unreliable, and unlikely to make any impact on death rates.

The Male Cancers: a hidden problem is available from the ICR, 17a Onslow Gardens, London SW7 3AL.

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