A genetic test which can detect signs of prostate cancer in urine has been launched in the UK.
The Progensa test, developed by Gen-Probe, measures the activity of a gene closely linked to prostate cancer – PCA3.
It is elevated only in cancerous prostate tissue, making it a more specific indicator of cancer than PSA.
The test is unlikely to be used routinely as it costs Â£200 compared with just Â£10 for a PSA test but one potential use is for those with a strong family history of the disease.
About 35,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the UK and 10,000 die from the disease.
Doctors use the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test, which looks for raised levels of a protein in the blood that leaks out of the prostate gland.
A high PSA score is indicates cancer may be present but to know more doctors have to take tissue samples from the prostate using a sharp needle through the anus.
But some men with cancer might have low PSA levels and go undetected while others without cancer may have high levels and end up undergoing procedures they did not need.
And men with raised PSA but who appear to be cancer-free often have to undergo repeated biopsies, to check that all is well.