Healthy living

Early prostate cancer markers discovered

Early prostate cancer markers discovered Detects disease in men without symptoms

UK scientists have discovered potential new "biomarkers" which could indicate very early prostate cancer in men without any symptoms of the disease.

Researchers at the University of Bristol looked at a range of growth factors and proteins in the blood of 2,686 men with prostate cancer and 2,766 men without the disease.

One growth factor called insulin like growth factor-II (IGF-II) and two proteins (IGFB-2 and IGF-3) were all associated with an increased risk of the disease.

The growth factors – IGFs and IGFBPs – regulate normal growth and development of organs and tissues, especially during foetal development and childhood.

Dr Mari-Anne Rowlands, from the University of Bristol, said: “It’s too early to be certain but these results suggest that we may have identified potential novel biomarkers for very early prostate cancer in men with no symptoms.

“Now we need more research to determine whether levels of these potential biomarkers predict which prostate cancers detected by screening might progress to become life-threatening."

Although there is a test for prostate cancer - the PSA test - it is unreliable. The test detects raised levels of a protein called prostate specific antigen, which is often raised in men with prostate cancer. However, other non-cancerous conditions can also cause raised levels of PSA.

Professor Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research UK’s prostate cancer expert, said: “Identifying men at greater risk of developing prostate cancer is a major priority at the moment, since it may be that offering them screening would have greater benefits than the very small benefits seen when the whole population is screened.

This study could be a very important step forward in identifying such men who should be screened.”

The findings will be presented today at the National Cancer Research Institute conference in Liverpool.

This article was published on Mon 8 November 2010

Image © Andrey Ushakov -

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