Health Alert: Prostate cancer skin test

NATIONAL (NBC) - There may soon be a new screening test for prostate cancer coming down the pike. It's not only non-invasive, it may prevent a lot of unnecessary biopsies.

Joe Pogorelc knows what it's like to be screened and biopsied for prostate cancer. "You're very relieved that it's over. That's about all I can tell you."

Now he's helping researchers at the University of California San Diego study a kinder, gentler prostate cancer test. Epidermal genetic information retrieval, EGIR for short, uses adhesive film to harvest skin cells that hold genetic information.

Dr. William Wachsman says, "The whole premise of the test is that the cancer cells circulate in the blood stream. And cancer cells, including prostate cancer cells, often put out factors from the cell itself."

The theory is those factors cause genetic changes within the skin that may signal prostate cancer. Dr. Wachsman says, "We're trying to determine whether that's true and if so, what genes are being expressed specifically in relationship to the presence of prostate cancer."

If the skin test works, it could replace the standard PSA blood test. Dr. Wachsman says, "The PSA Assay has a lot of false positives and we do unneeded biopsies. It has a lot of false negatives and we're missing people who should be biopsied."

A routine test that's more accurate and patient-friendly could encourage more men to screen for prostate cancer.

Doctors say if the skin test works for prostate cancer, it may also work for other types of cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Dermtch International, the company that makes the EGIR test, helped fund the USCD study.

Posted by Chantelle Janelle