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Tuesday, November 17, 1998 Published at 14:50 GMT


Male cancers 'underfunded'

Michael Bentine died of prostate cancer

Funding for research into male cancers is "absolutely abysmal" and needs to be increased to bring it into line with female cancers, according to an expert in the field.

Professor Colin Cooper of the Institute of Cancer Research has criticised the government over funding for male cancers as a report by the all-parliamentary group on male cancers shows that only £1m a year is spent on prostate cancer compared with £16m on breast cancer.

Professor Cooper is a member of the group which is calling for a £3m investment in an early warning test for prostate cancer, which, if successful, could save thousands of men's lives.

About 16,000 men a year are diagnosed with prostate cancer and up to 11,000 die.

One of the reasons so many men die is that the disease is often not caught in the early stages when it is treatable.

Another problem is men's lack of awareness about prostate and other male cancers and their traditional unwillingness to go to the doctor about such complaints for fear of being seen as "wimpish".

The all-party parliamentary group wants funding for a trial to see if an early warning test for prostate cancer - called PSA - is successful and could be used across the country.

Early warning test

Professor Cooper said: "If the PSA test can save lives we should introduce it - but we need funds for a randomised trial to see if it will.

"There is a general lack of awareness of male cancers. Men tend to be more reserved about cancer than women," he added.

Richard Bentine, the son of entertainer Michael Bentine who died from prostate cancer, said the test was a good thing: "Men are half the population and they know nothing about cancer. "The PSA test is a blood test which did not cost me any money and I didn't even have to take my trousers off."

Labour MP Jane Griffiths, who leads the parliamentary group on male cancers, called for more education about male cancers, particularly testicular cancer.

Statistics suggest that the number of testicular cancer cases is doubling every 20 years, although no-one knows why.

"We need to achieve the same level of acceptance as we have done in Aids awareness where young people are not embarrassed to use a condom," she said.

"We need men to be able to check themselves properly, there should be diagrams on the wall during school medicals. Diagnosis and early treatment of testicular cancer is very successful," she said.

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