The risk of prostate cancer could be detected through a urine test, research has revealed.
Doctors discovered that men diagnosed with the disease have a reduced level of the MSMB protein. The MSMB level is affected by a genetic change linked to prostate cancer and can also show how aggressive a tumour is.
Currently the risk and progress of prostate cancer is assessed through blood tests for prostate specific antigen (PSA).
The research, which is published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE, could pave the way to the first useful urine test for prostate cancer.
Study leader Dr Hayley Whitaker, from Cancer Research UK charity's Cambridge Research Institute, said: "We looked in tissue and urine from over 350 men with and without prostate cancer to find out how much MSMB they had. We then looked to see who had the genetic change. It was really exciting to find out that the genetic change and the amount of protein were linked.
"The protein is easy to detect because it is found in urine and would potentially be a very simple test to carry out on men to identify those most at risk of developing the disease."
Each year around 35,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer and some 10,000 die from the disease.
Dr Kate Holmes, research manager at The Prostate Cancer Charity, said: "The study suggests that measuring levels of this protein could potentially be a powerful way to predict how likely a man is to develop prostate cancer."