A sperm screening test for testicular cancer has been successfully used in Denmark according to the journal Human Reproduction.
Using a technique to analyse a semen sample, researchers at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen diagnosed the early stages of cancer in a 23-year-old man who had been thought to be healthy.
The new work is based on detecting a protein called AP-2gamma which is produced by cells in the early stages of testicular cancer, but not healthy cells. Researchers compared semen samples from 12 patients with known testicular cancer with those from apparently health men and others with different types of cancer and fertility problems.
The key protein was found not only in the known testicular cancer patients, and also in the man who had been thought healthy - a biopsy confirmed that he had cancer in his left testicle.
Researcher Professor Niels SkakkebÃ¦k told the BBC: 'To our knowledge, this is the first report of the diagnosis of testicular cancer at the pre-invasive stage in a semen sample.' But he warned that more work was needed before a screening test could be perfected. In the first study it detected testicular cancer in only five out of 12 people with known disease.
The health benefits of effective screening may be clear, the financial ones less so, but the issue of testicular cancer screening has never really arisen before because previous detection techniques of this type have been unreliable, difficult and time-consuming. Today, the question: would testicular cancer screening for young men be beneficial and cost-effective?' may have come a little closer for men's health policy makers.
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Page updated on December 1st, 2009