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A New Way of Detecting Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, yet diagnosis of this deadly yet often curable disease is currently difficult. Scientists in the UK however have recently announced an exciting development in the quest to find a simple test for prostate cancer that could save thousands of lives around the world each year.

The prostate is a gland, found in the male reproductive system, which is the site of prostatic fluid production. This fluid is a key component of semen and helps to nourish sperm and aid their development. Although it is not conclusively known why the prostate can become cancerous, a number of factors are implicated, including a genetic disposition, diet and ethnicity (African-American men are at highest risk while Asian men have been shown to be at a much lower risk). By far the biggest risk factor is age. Men under the age of 50 have a very low risk of developing prostate cancer, whereas it is estimated that some 80% of men over the age of 80 will develop the disease.

As with all cancers, early detection is crucial, and if caught soon enough, removal of the prostate will often cure the condition. The problem with prostate cancer however is that because the prostate is an internal organ, invisible from the outside and unable to be easily felt in the body, it is difficult to detect any change in size or shape. It is often not until the tumor has reached such a size as it begins to press on the urethra and interferes with the normal ability to pass urine that the patient may begin to worry enough to see a doctor.

Prostate cancer is often found on examinations including the “digital rectal examination” or by the PSA screening test – in other words, the doctor will feel inside the anus to detect any changes in the normal state of the prostate. If it feels enlarged, or hard and lumpy, the doctor may recommend further biopsy examination and/or a blood test.

Most men are not routinely screened for prostate cancer, either because there is no free screening program in their area, or because they are too embarrassed to endure the rectal exam. However, Dr. Hayley Whitaker and her team from the Cambridge Research Institute in the UK have identified a potentially unique marker for prostate cancer that can be detected in urine.

Many, but not all, cases of prostate cancer can be attributed to a defective gene, and it was discovered that sufferers with this type of prostate cancer had a reduced level of a protein called MSMB in their urine. Though the research is still in the early stages, this important finding could pave the way for a simple home testing kit to detect levels of MSMB in the urine, and it could cost as little as $9 per test. It is hoped that with further investigation, this test, which would be significantly less embarrassing than the current alternative, could encourage more men to be screened for the disease in the hope that much earlier diagnoses will be made.

Cole Watts writes on behalf of US Medical Supplies, an online retailer of medical equipment and mobility aides.


  1. Ken Weiss

    December 16, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Hi Cole, the urine test to detect prostate cancer was a fascinating study, in which dogs were trained to sniff urine to detect the presence of prostate cancer. It took several months to train the dogs, and once fully trained had a remarkably high success rate. Man’s best friend comes through again!

  2. Pingback: New Urine-Based Test for Prostate Cancer « The Cracked Nut

  3. cole_w

    October 29, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Robb – Sadly I do not.
    Dawn – I have to agree with you, I think getting a check up still has so many negative connotations attached to it, that we need to get away from.

  4. cole_w

    October 29, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Robb – Sadly I do not.
    Dawn – I have to agree with you, I think getting a check up still has so many negative connotations attached to it, that we need to get away from.

  5. Pingback: MSMB Protein Home Prostate Cancer Detection | The Cancer Site

  6. Dawn @ Probiotics LoveThatBug

    October 28, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Any test that eliminates the need for the digital rectal examination will save lives. Many men – including my husband – are very reluctant to under go that probing finger.

    I also believe that many doctors are not overly enthused on doing it. Certainly it is not a test that my husband is ever told he should undergo, despite having had a run-in with cancer.

    I’m the only person who reminds him about it. As far as he and his male doctor are concerned, out of sight, out of mind.

    This new test sounds like a great step forward.

  7. Douglas Robb

    October 28, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Cole, do they have any idea what causes the reduction in MSMB?

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