New Limerick study finds men being diagnosed with prostate cancer at younger age

Fintan Walsh


Fintan Walsh

The Median age for prostate cancer has dropped from 71 to 63 in Mid-West

The median age for prostate cancer has dropped from 71 to 63 in the Mid-West, according to a new study

MEN in the Mid-West are being diagnosed with significant prostate cancer at a younger age than 10 years ago, according to new research at University Hospital Limerick.

UHL’s urology department and University of Limerick’s Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS) discovered that the average age of men with “high-grade prostate cancer” had dropped from 71 to 63.

The findings in the research, which was published in the Central European Journal of Urology, arrived following in-depth patient data analysis at UHL between January 2005 and December 2015.

Scientists said the study “paves the way” for future research on early-onset prostate cancer.

The data was taken from 2,391 men who underwent transrectal ultrasound guided prostate biopsy, and revealed that the rate of significant cancer detection increased by 18% in younger men.

“Significant prostate cancer detection increased across all age groups but recently, a younger patient profile was diagnosed with high-grade disease,” a group of researchers at UHL said.

The average age of men undergoing biopsies at UHL also went down, but researchers said that this was partly due to the increased use of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests. PSA is a protein produced in the prostate, and these tests measure the level of the protein in the blood.

PSA tests can be obtained by a GP or via the internet.

Researchers said that younger men are more likely to concentrate on radical treatment option to combat the disease.

Despite the research, University Hospital Limerick is not allowed to carry out radical prostatectomies — prostate cancer surgeries — as a result of a strict HSE regulation.

In a Limerick Leader investigation, it was learned that the 11-year-old regulation has forced at least 81 men to travel to Galway for the life-saving operation since 2014.

This is despite the fact that UHL is the only public hospital on the island of Ireland to have a Da Vinci surgical robot, a facility that has the ability to make small incisions that cannot be done by the human hand.

The €2.6m robot, which was donated by the JP McManus Benevolent Fund, has operated on around 100 patients since it was first docked in June 2016. A spokesperson for the HSE said that, under National Cancer Control Programme guidelines, a hospital should have between 40 to 50 patients in order to become a centre for prostate cancer surgery.

While the annual average number of patients requiring this procedure is 30, it is understood that patients from across the country would avail of surgery at UHL if it became a designated centre. 

A spokesperson for the UL Hospitals Group told the Leader that it has “requested that the NCCP reviews the current situation to UL Hospitals to become a dedicated centre for prostatectomy surgery”.