Patients could soon have access to a new prostate cancer test, which uses urine samples to check if men have the disease, researcher say.
It has been claimed that the new method is twice as good at identifying patients with the disease as the PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test, which is currently used to test for the cancer.
Scientists are hopeful that the new test will be ready to use by patients within 18 months but it is as yet unknown whether the test will perform well enough to be worthy of a national NHS screening programme, like those that already exist for breast, cervical and bowel cancers.
The NHS does not currently operate a screening programme for bowel cancer because the PSA test is deemed too unreliable.
The new test, developed at the University of Surrey in Guildford, relies on a protein called Engrailed-2 (EN2) which is important in the development of the human embryo.
Its production is normally switched off at birth, but scientists found it to be re-activated in prostate cancer.
Analysis of urine samples from 288 men with and without prostate cancer found the test was able to detect around 66% of cancers on first use.
Professor Hardev Pandha, whose team developed the test and reported the findings today in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, said: "In this study we showed that the new test was twice as good at finding prostate cancer as the standard PSA test. Only rarely did we find EN2 in the urine of men who were cancer free so, if we find EN2 we can be reasonably sure that a man has prostate cancer."