Prostate Cancer Blood Testing: Breakthrough Or Hoax?


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Prostate cancer is deadly to many men and is the second most common cause of cancer-related death. Close to 250,000 men are diagnosed with the disease each year.

One of the scariest aspects of prostate cancer is that there are often no early warning signs. A man could be walking around with the condition growing worse by the day, having no idea he desperately needs prostate cancer treatment.

Because current cancer testing is often not prostate cancer-specific, doctors often have to take the "long way round" in an effort to confirm the exact nature of a patient's condition. The series of screenings take time, precious time that can potentially cost a man his life.

A new kind of blood test is currentlybeing researched in the United Kingdom that some are speculating will bring an end to this problem.

The study, which involves 191 men, is hoping to use prostate-specific antigen or PSA blood testing to determine which men are more susceptible to developing prostate cancer. Scientists detected certain gene mutations which they thought would make certain individuals more likely to have cancer: BRCA1, BRCA2, CHEK2, PALB2 and ATM. These gene mutations are also linked to the high risk of breast cancer in women.

It is hoped that as further testing is performed that eventually it will lead to tailored screenings to individual men, which will look at these patients according to their determined preexisting risk level.

Not everyone is convinced that this study can deliver the desired results. The New York Post is reporting that one man, Richard J. Ablin, has declared the series of tests a "hoax". In his book, “The Great Prostate Hoax", Albin discusses the type of testing being toted by UK researchers. Albin claims this research is just the latest in a type of pointless blood testing that goes back to 1970s.

According to Albin's own research, he's drawn the conclusion that this form of testing cannot detect cancer in patients and is ultimately a "useless" waste of time.

There seems to be some official research that backs up his argument.

A joint study of results from the US and Europe was published in the New England Journal of Medicine which said the following: “PSA-based screening results in small or no reduction in prostate cancer-specific mortality" In other words, the screening did nothing to save lives as far as the researchers could tell. A discouraging conclusion for a form of testing enjoying a bit of buzz at the moment.

Image via Wikimedia Commons