No other cancer affects men as often as prostate cancer. The Center for Cancer Registry Data counts 65,000 new cases in Germany every year. And the trend is rising. As a recent report by “The Lancet Commission” revealed, the number of cases and deaths worldwide will more than double in the coming years. Experts expect 2.9 million people to be affected by the disease by 2040. According to the alarming forecast, 700,000 people will die from it. The current number is around 375,000 – an increase of 85 percent.

As with all types of cancer, the earlier the risk of the disease is identified, the higher the chances of recovery. For this reason, researchers around the world are working on methods to detect cancer or even just an increased risk of it at an early stage. A team of British scientists now appears to have achieved a breakthrough.


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Currently, so-called PSA blood tests are mainly used to detect prostate cancer at an early stage. However, these can miss diseases or produce false positive results, i.e. diagnose cancer even though it is not there. “The PSA test falsely indicates prostate cancer in three out of four cases in men and detects cancers that grow so slowly that they are unlikely to ever become life-threatening – which means that men have to undergo unnecessary MRI scans, invasive biopsies and treatments,” explain the scientists from the Institute of Cancer Research, London (ICR) and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. They now claim to have found a better method.

Researchers develop saliva test that detects prostate cancer

As they write in their new study, they have developed a saliva test that can be easily performed at home. This can “determine the future risk of prostate cancer in a group of men more accurately than the current standard blood test,” the scientists say.

And that is how it works:

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For the study, over 6,000 men underwent the saliva test. They were all between 55 and 69 years old. At this age, the risk of prostate cancer is increased. The test then calculated the so-called polygenic risk score (PRS) for them within seconds. This score is based on 130 genetic DNA variations that are associated with prostate cancer. If the score is high, a man has many of these gene variants and therefore a greatly increased risk of developing prostate cancer.

The men with the highest PRS values ​​were invited to further cancer screenings. 40 percent of them were actually diagnosed with prostate cancer. In comparison, with the PSA test, the figure is only 25 percent.

Test is more accurate, simpler and cheaper

“With this test, it may be possible to turn prostate cancer around,” said Ros Eeles, Professor of Oncogenetics at the ICR. “We have shown that a simple, inexpensive saliva test to identify men at higher risk due to their genetic predisposition is an effective way to detect the cancer early.”

The team presented its results at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago. Eeles explained that the breakthrough came after decades of research, writes the Guardian. “Our study shows that the theory works in practice – we can identify men who are at risk of aggressive cancers and need further testing, and spare men at lower risk from unnecessary treatment.”

5 modifiable risk factors for prostate cancer

It is not just genetics that determine whether someone will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. There are other risk factors that you can even control yourself.

1. Gonorrhea and syphilis

Men who have had sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are particularly at risk of developing prostate cancer later in life, according to an Italian study. In their meta-analysis, the researchers evaluated 47 studies that dealt with STIs and prostate cancer. According to the study, gonorrhea, colloquially known as the clap, increases the risk of prostate cancer by almost 50 percent.

Syphilis also appears to have some influence on the development of cancer. For other STIs, such as HPV, there were no such clear results in connection with prostate cancer. However, researchers assume that STIs generally increase the risk of prostate cancer.

The cause of the fatal result – first a sexually transmitted disease, later prostate cancer – is probably the inflammatory processes in the prostate that can occur with an STI. The risk of cancer increases particularly if the tissue is inflamed over a long period of time or repeatedly. It is well known that some men contract gonorrhea or syphilis several times in their lives.

Based on these results, many cases of prostate cancer could probably be prevented if STI prevention was carried out reliably, such as safer sex. This would prevent infection with gonorrhea and syphilis and thus reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

2. Sleep disorders, insomnia

It is common knowledge that problems falling asleep and staying asleep have a negative impact on health. What is new is the finding that insomnia also increases the risk of prostate cancer by 10 percent. This is the result of an analysis of the sleeping habits of more than 200,000 men with a follow-up period of a good ten years.

Sleep problems can often be easily influenced by self-management, such as sleep hygiene, relaxation exercises, avoiding stressful films in the evening and using cell phones and tablets in the bedroom. Alcohol is also not the sleep-inducer that many people think, but has been proven to impair sleep quality. The study also shows a very simple way to reduce your personal risk of prostate cancer: an afternoon nap reduces the risk by around nine percent.

3. Milk and dairy products

This food, which has been praised as a health potion for decades, is not actually that useful in large quantities. This has been proven in several studies in recent years. This is not just about the risky fat profile, which can be avoided by using low-fat products. Milk and dairy products can increase the risk of some types of cancer, such as breast cancer, but also prostate cancer, as a recent study shows.

According to the study, just two cups of milk increases the risk of prostate cancer by 25 percent. Several substances in milk and milk products could be responsible for this. Not calcium, but probably sex hormones. Our milk usually comes from pregnant cows and therefore contains hormones. Many forms of prostate cancer react to hormones. The growth factor IGF-1, the abbreviation stands for “insulin-like growth factor”, could also promote its development. These connections exist, but are not very pronounced, as a meta-analysis suggests.

The daily consumption of milk, cheese and yoghurt is therefore not a risk factor if the amount remains moderate.

4. Smoking

When you smoke, the body is flooded with a lot of carcinogenic substances. Not only the mouth and upper and lower respiratory tract come into contact with the lungs, but also indirectly the bladder and prostate. However, there are conflicting study results as to whether smoking is really a strong risk factor for prostate cancer or not. However, a recent study proves for the first time how dangerous smoking is for men with prostate cancer: smokers who have the disease have a 20 percent higher risk of dying from this cancer than non-smokers.

The longer and more people smoked, the higher the mortality rate. This connection was particularly pronounced in cancer patients who not only smoked but were also overweight. Overweight and obesity are significant risk factors for many types of cancer. Fat cells produce hormones such as leptin, which can promote cell growth, and support subliminal, silent inflammation that can promote cancer.

Both risk factors can be reduced with a little personal initiative – stop smoking and lose weight.

5. Lack of exercise

Given this background, it is not surprising that a lack of exercise is one of the risk factors that can be influenced. Too little physical activity is a known risk factor for various forms of cancer – not only for breast and colon cancer, lung and pancreatic cancer and endometrial cancer, but also for prostate cancer.

Various factors play a role here. For example, a lack of exercise affects hormone production and promotes silent inflammation.

Regular physical exercise could reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 10 to 20 percent. The effect is greater the more intense the exercise. The WHO recommends two and a half hours a week as a minimum – in terms of cancer prevention, a little more is certainly better. Other professional organizations such as the American Cancer Society recommend at least 60 minutes of moderate or 30 minutes of intense activity per day.