Study: Screening can massively reduce prostate cancer deaths

MEN may baulk at the controversial practice of screening for prostate cancer but it could reduce the number of deaths from the disease by as much as a fifth, a major European study has revealed.

Involving more than 162,000 European men, the latest update from the 13-year long study has shown screening can help those with prostate cancer survive.

The latest figures of deaths in Australia from the ABS, released in March, showed prostate cancer was Australia's 11th biggest killer.

The number of deaths from prostate cancer in Australia rose from about 2800 in 2003 to more than 3000 in 2012, exceeding breast cancer as a cause of death.

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Ian Olver said the latest update to the study showed a "survival advantage" among those tested, but it did not make a case for mandatory screening.

"There are a large proportion of men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer through screening who ultimately don't die of the disease," he said.

"This over-diagnosis leads to individuals having adverse effects associated with treatment including impotence and incontinence.

"The results ultimately show why we need to focus on developing a better test that can better predict which prostate cancers are life threatening."

The study found that of those diagnosed with prostate cancer, death could be prevented in about one in every 27 men.

But it also confirmed the overall benefits of screening may not yet outweigh the health costs, with higher risks of urinary tract infections, erectile dysfunction and other complications arising from treatment.

Debates about the benefits of screening have also centred on whether mandatory screening could lead to over diagnosis of cancers among those who may not die from the disease.

The study authors recommended men, particularly those aged 50 years or older, should still consider screening, but should consult their doctor before making a decision.