Early prostate cancer diagnosis: can Theresa May’s plan mimic results in Japan?

18 April 2018 (Last Updated April 18th, 2018 10:23)

On April 10, 2018, UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced a £75M (approximately $106M) investment into prostate cancer diagnosis and research. The plan aims to focus on early diagnosis in men in high-risk groups, including black men, men ages 50 and over, and men with a family history of the disease. The UK appears to be following the lead of Japan, where prostate cancer is typically diagnosed at an earlier stage compared with the other markets analysed by GlobalData.

Early prostate cancer diagnosis: can Theresa May’s plan mimic results in Japan?
Early screening of prostate cancer is key to successful treatment. Credit: Flickr / Number 10.

On April 10, 2018, UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced a £75M (approximately $106M) investment into prostate cancer diagnosis and research. The plan aims to focus on early diagnosis in men in high-risk groups, including black men, men ages 50 and over, and men with a family history of the disease. The UK appears to be following the lead of Japan, where prostate cancer is typically diagnosed at an earlier stage compared with the other markets analysed by GlobalData.

GlobalData identified that there were over 470,000 newly diagnosed cases of prostate cancer across the seven major markets (7MM: the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and Japan) in 2016. The UK accounts for roughly 10% of these cases, with the number of incident cases over 48,000 in 2016. This number is expected to climb to over 57,000 cases in the UK by 2026, representing an annual growth rate of 1.89%. Because the cancer is slow-growing, 10-year prevalence numbers are staggering, with over 365,000 men in the UK diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Early screening for prostate cancer is key to successful treatment. This is usually done through a combination of digital rectal examination and measuring levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood, both of which are simple procedures that can be done in the doctor’s office.

The figure below shows the distribution of staging at the time of diagnosis for the 7MM.


Among the 7MM, the UK has one of the highest proportions of patients diagnosed at the metastatic stage, at over 20%, and only 33% of patients are diagnosed with Stage I disease. This is in stark contrast to Japan, where nearly 60% of cases are diagnosed at Stage I. Much of this success in Japan can be attributed to public awareness, as diagnosis rates surged following the news that the Japanese Emperor, Akihito, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002. This was in parallel with the Japanese Urological Association recommendation for PSA screening in all men over age 50 in 2010, leading to fewer diagnoses of advanced prostate cancer.

The coming years will determine how effective the early diagnosis strategy will be, and whether diagnosis rates in the UK will match those seen in Japan. It is, however, clear that such strategies can work in other markets, as evidenced by Japan’s successful approach to prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment.

For more insight and data, visit the GlobalData Report Store – Verdict Hospital is part of GlobalData Plc.