News and CommentCANCER

Study Suggests New Way to Gauge Prostate Cancer Risk

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Science  23 Jan 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5350, pp. 475
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5350.475

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The prostate specific antigen test detects the signal of cancers already under way, but it can't identify men at high risk of getting prostate cancer before they develop the disease, in the way cholesterol serves as a heads-up for heart disease. But now, a team of researchers from Harvard and McGill universities has come up with a molecule that may provide just such an early warning. They report on page 563 of this issue that men whose blood contained high levels of a protein called insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) were four times more likely to develop prostate cancer than were men with the lowest IGF levels. If these results are confirmed, an IGF-I test might be used to identify high-risk men who need close monitoring or to recognize potentially aggressive tumors while they're still small, and it could also lead to ways of lowering men's risk, although the authors stress that such potential applications are still years away.