Taking a major step in prostate cancer research, scientists have found a host of genetic variations that could tell which men are at the highest risk of contracting prostate cancer.
The results come from two studies today, which open up the prospect of new tests and treatments for the commonest male malignant disease.
The existing blood test is unreliable, often leading to unnecessary, painful and invasive investigations when there is no cancer, or sometimes incorrectly giving men the all-clear when they actually have the disease.
The two studies reveal nine new genetic variations that contribute to an increased risk of prostate cancer.
With these discoveries, the number of genetic variations associated with the disease has come to 20- the largest number of genetic risk factors uncovered for any cancer.
According to the researchers, the latest advances help to explain why the disease runs in families.
Ros Eeles, of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, who led the first of the two studies, said that the finding was based on the analysis of the genomes of 38,000 men from 21 studies and confirmed previous research published two years ago.
"These results will help us more accurately calculate the risk that a man could develop prostate cancer which will enable more targeted screening. Understanding more about these genes could also lead to the development of new treatments," the Independent quoted him as saying.
The study has been published in Nature Genetics.