World experts call for Scotland to act against prostate cancer

Cancer Research UK

Joint Press Release from Scottish Cancer Foundation, Cancer Research UK and the British Prostate Group

Scotland needs to continue to overhaul its cancer services, as well as developing guidelines for prevention, in order to meet the challenge of its rising tide of prostate cancer, experts from home and abroad reveal at a press briefing.

While mortality for other common forms of the disease such as lung and breast cancer is falling, deaths from prostate cancer have risen by 60 per cent in Scotland in the last 20 years, as the population ages.

Cancer specialists from Europe and the US are joining UK scientists and doctors in Scotland's first conference on the disease1, organised by the Scottish Cancer Foundation, Cancer Research UK and the British Prostate Group.

Over the last few years, Scotland has begun a comprehensive review of its cancer services, in a bid to bring them up to the standard of the US and other countries in Europe.

But there are still concerns that Scotland has some catching up do on treatment, while the country is awaiting results on the effectiveness of prostate cancer screening using the controversial PSA blood test.

Dr Otis Brawley of the Winship Cancer Centre in Atlanta says: "The use of prostate screening is controversial because it can mean that some men receive treatment unnecessarily, but the other mainstay of US healthcare - the latest and most effective drugs and radiotherapy - is surely something that Scotland will want to emulate as quickly as it can."

Professor Peter Boyle of the European Institute of Cancer in Milan, himself a Scot, says: "I've been watching the changes in Scotland's cancer services very carefully, but it's going to take a few more years before Scots start to feel the benefits.

"Some people may also argue for prostate cancer screening, but that should only happen once Scotland can guarantee men access to the very best quality diagnostics and treatment, to ensure that earlier detection is translated into better healthcare."

They also want to see much better coordination of different aspects of treatment, allowing patients to pass more quickly and smoothly from one stage of treatment to the next, maximising the chances of recovery.

Dr Duncan Mclaren, Consultant Clinical Oncologist at the Edinburgh Cancer Centre, says: "We have to make sure that the various parts of Scotland's cancer services are linked together much more effectively than they are now, so that we can focus on a patient's complete cancer journey."

In the future, awareness campaigns to teach Scottish men how they can prevent prostate cancer should also be important for cutting deaths from the disease. Mortality from prostate cancer is about 10 times higher in North America and Europe than in Asia, indicating important environmental effects on the risk of the disease, although more research is needed to clearly identify the major risk factors.

Dr Tim Key of the Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit in Oxford is concerned that Scotland's much criticised diet may be contributing to the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Scots eat only two thirds of the recommended intake of fruit and vegetables, 20 per cent less than people in England and Wales. Scientists believe that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables may protect against a number of types of cancer.

Dr Key comments: "I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the odd plate of chips or bacon sandwich, but Scots need to understand the importance of a healthy balanced diet. They need to be eating much more fruit and vegetables, ideally five portions a day, and lots more cereals too."

Representatives of the three organisations will warn that for many years prostate cancer has been the poor relation, receiving less money for research than other cancers and having a less vocal cancer lobby. But they believes this situation is now changing, and that the resulting awareness of the disease could finally lead to progress in cutting Scotland's prostate cancer deaths.

While deaths from the disease have been on the increase since the 1970s, the last five years has seen a reversal of those trends, with better treatments beginning to have an impact on mortality. Experts hope that the conference, at Edinburgh International Conference Centre, can help Scottish doctors to learn from colleagues in Europe and elsewhere, so that Scottish patients can benefit from the latest advances.

Professor John Wyke, Chairman of the Scottish Cancer Foundation, comments: "Bringing together so many leading experts on prostate cancer from around the world will be enormously beneficial for Scotland. It should help us to organise awareness programmes for cancer prevention, and to put pressure on the Government to review Scotland's cancer services, so that new treatments reach patients more quickly."

Dr Richard Sullivan, Cancer Research UK's Head of Clinical Programmes, says: "This conference will put prostate cancer on the map in Scotland and help to focus minds on how best to treat and prevent the disease. It's important to learn from the expertise of the international experts gathered here."

ENDS

  1. Prostate Cancer: A European Dimension

Notes to Editor:

The latest figures available reveal that in 1999, 1,840 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in Scotland, while in 2001 there were 777 deaths. Twenty years previously, there were 901 cases and 478 deaths. More statistics...