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Thursday, 1 June, 2000, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
Cancer guru defends UK record
Prostate cancer can be treated with radiotherapy
A leading cancer charity has produced evidence to contradict claims that the UK lags behind the US badly in the treatment of prostate cancer.

Cancer: the facts
The Cancer Research Campaign (CRC) presented new figures showing that prostate cancer death rates are about the same in both the US and England and Wales.

Recent reports have suggested that the US has far higher survival rates for the disease than the UK.

Professor Gordon McVie, CRC director general, said the reason is that more cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in the US - therefore more people are successfully treated.

However, he said prostate cancer was unusual among cancers in that diagnosing more cases did not automatically result in lower death rates.

The Americans are actively screening for the disease, so more cases are being diagnosed

Professor Gordon McVie, Cancer Research Campaign

Professor McVie said: "The Americans are actively screening for the disease, so more cases are being diagnosed.

"Doctors already know that many prostate cancer patients don't die of it, so it stands to reason that the more patients you have registered with early stage disease, the better your survival figures look. The bottom line in all this is the death rates - they tell a different story."

Sceptical about screening

Professor Gordon McVie
Professor Gordon McVie said the UK was doing as well as the US

Professor McVie said in the absence of more evidence the campaign remained sceptical about the value of prostate cancer screening.

He also doubted the US practice of giving very aggressive treatment to all men who are diagnosed with the disease.

In the UK aggressive treatment is only given to a minority.

He said: "The important issue to remember here is that prostate cancer is very different from all the other common cancers because, at least at the present, there is no definitive "best" way to treat the disease.

"Trials are currently underway to give the answers to these vital questions of treatment and screening. Until we have more evidence, we remain sceptical about the effectiveness of screening.

"We also believe that giving blanket aggressive treatment to patients is not in everyone's best interests."

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men and around 21,000 new cases are diagnosed in the UK each year, mainly among the over 60s.

There are around 9,500 deaths each year from the disease in the UK.

Death rates for prostate cancer have dipped slightly in both the US and England and Wales during the 1990s.

Mortality rates for 1997, the latest available, showed there were between 14 and 16 prostate cancer deaths per 100,000 people in both the US and England and Wales.

The figures were presented at a news conference to launch the campaign's Men's Cancer Awareness month on Thursday.

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