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Prostate Cancer Accurately Identified with Semen Test

Jun 09, 2014 10:59 AM EDT

Screening for prostate cancer may have just become more accurate thanks to a new semen test recently proposed by researchers.

A study published in the journal Endocrine-Related Cancer describes how tiny biomarkers found in seminal fluid can help prostate cancer screenings become "surprisingly accurate," even helping to determine the severity of the cancer.

Lead study author Luke Selth of the University of Adelaide said that prostate cancer - one of the most common and fatal cancers among men - desperately needs a more accurate screening process. The prostate specific antigen (PSA) test most commonly used, he explained in a recent press release, is far too inaccurate compared to screenings for other cancers.

"While the PSA test is very sensitive, it is not highly specific for prostate cancer," Selth said. "This results in many unnecessary biopsies of non-malignant disease. More problematically, PSA testing has resulted in substantial over-diagnosis and over-treatment of slow growing, non-lethal prostate cancers that could have been safely left alone."

This is why biomarkers in semen may be a saving grace for many patients.

According to the study, Selth and his team found a single specific microRNA, miR-200b, that was strongly prevalent only in the semen of prostate cancer patients. Sixty men were asked to give semen samples, which were then blindly analyzed. Only those who actually had various stages of the cancer were found to have a notable presence of miR-200b.

Potentially alone and certainly coupled with PSA testing, microRNA seminal testing could help researchers better identify patients with prostate cancer verses patients who are experiencing some other illness. The research team also found that the prevalence of miR-200b helped them identify what stage the cancer was in and determine its severity.

"This is important because, as a potential prognostic tool, it will help to indicate the urgency and type of treatment required," Selth explained.

The study was published in Endocrine-Related Cancer on May 23.

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