Controversial blood test 'cuts prostate cancer deaths'PSA test not used routinely in the UK because of fears over reliabilityCan spot a protein in the blood that can signify the presence of prostate cancer

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UPDATED:

17:54 GMT, 23 August 2012

A controversial blood test for prostate cancer may have significantly improved the survival prospects of patients diagnosed with advanced disease, research has shown.

Scientists identified a reduced risk of dying of almost a third since the widespread introduction of the PSA (prostate specific antigen) test in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The PSA test identifies a protein in the blood that can signify the presence of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer cells: Researchers say the PSA test can cut deaths, even though it is not used routinely in the UK or US

Prostate cancer cells: Researchers say the PSA test can cut deaths, even though it is not used routinely in the UK or US

Critics say the test is too unreliable to be used for routine screening, which is why there is no automatic PSA testing in the UK.

Instead, it is used on a case by case basis with men who exhibit symptoms.

But the new American study suggests that widespread PSA testing can save lives.

The test is used more often in the US than the UK, though the American Cancer Society no longer recommends it for routine screening.

Scientists studied survival data from prostate cancer trials conducted before and after PSA testing was introduced in 1987.

In the two earlier trials, which enrolled patients between 1985 and 1994, typical patient survival was 30 and 33 months.

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The PSA test uses a simple blood test to look for a key indicator of prostate cancer

'Of note is the resolution of disparity in survival between the races found in earlier studies.

'While not all of these welcome improvements can be attributed strictly to PSA testing, without a doubt it has played a role in extending many lives.'

The research is published in the Journal of Urology.

Previous studies have suggested that PSA testing saves few lives and in many cases can lead to risky and unnecessary treatments.