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Doctors Say Fewer Men Dying of Testicular Cancer

Early diagnosis and more effective treatments mean that deaths from testicular cancer are decreasing worldwide, despite a rise in the number of new cases of the illness, researchers reported on Friday.

Their study, published in The Lancet medical journal, showed that chemotherapy treatment could help to reduce death rates for the most common cancer among men aged 25 to 29.

"Testicular cancer is a classic example of cancer that is generally curable when the right treatment is given," said Professor Peter Boyle of Britain's Imperial Cancer Research Fund, a co-author of the report.

"In spite of the number of cases increasing, deaths from testicular cancer have been declining in North America and Western Europe since the late 70s," he added. Death rates from the disease in men younger than 45 fell by about a third in the late 1980s compared to the 1970s. Cases of testicular cancer, which affects one in 500 men, had been increasing since the 1930s. Denmark, Switzerland and Norway have the highest rates in the world.

After peaking in the United States in the 1960s, deaths from the illness have dropped by over 70%. In most of Europe deaths have declined by 67% since the 1970s. But in Eastern European nations the decline is only 22%--behind the United States, Japan and most of the rest of Europe. "We must find out why testicular cancer death rates are so different in central and Eastern Europe," Boyle said, "otherwise there will continue to be several hundred preventable deaths occurring every year." The researchers said their results indicate widespread inconsistencies in adequate treatments in central and Eastern Europe. If money is the problem, they suggested that urgent measures are needed to ensure that the best treatment is available to everyone.

Testicular cancer is curable in 90% of cases if it is caught and treated early. Symptoms include a lump or sore on the testicle, pain or soreness, a persistent cough, blood in the urine and stomach and bowel problems. Scientists suspect exposure to high levels of the female hormone oestrogen in the womb could be part of the reason for the increase in the disease. Familial testicular cancers account for an estimated 20% of cases. There are also more cases among first-born sons and non-identical twins.