The risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer has trebled in just 25 years, spurred by an ageing population and increased testing for the disease.

The lifetime risk of prostate cancer will jump from 5% (1 in 20) for boys born in 1990 to more than 14% (1 in 7) for those born in 2015, according to new data from Cancer Research UK.

A key factor in the rise is the greater use of the Prostate Specific Antigen Test (PSA), which has "rapidly boosted" the number being diagnosed the disease; now around 41,000 men a year compared to around 15,000 a year 25 years ago.

In addition, the fact that men are living longer means they are at a greater risk from getting prostate cancer, as it is most likely to develop in old age, the charity notes.

On the plus side, deaths from the disease are 18% lower than 20 years ago, most likely because treatments are getting better and cases are being diagnosed at an earlier stage, vastly improving chances of survival.

But there are still more than 40,000 new cases of prostate cancer every year, and a reliable indicator for the disease is urgently needed.

The PSA test examines the blood for a protein that can determine whether prostate cancer is present or not, but it cannot accurately determine whether prostate cancer is present or whether it is aggressive in nature. 

In addition, men can have raised level without having cancer and, conversely, prostate cancer may be present without higher levels of PSA.

Sorting 'vipers' from 'grass snakes'

"We’re carrying out an intensive amount of research to find better methods than PSA to distinguish between the minority of cases that are life threatening and do need treatment – the vipers – from the majority of cases that don’t – the grass snakes. But there is much more to be done," stressed Professor Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research UK’s prostate cancer expert.

Furthermore, there is uncertainty over the best approach to treating some forms of the disease, he noted, adding: "Surgery and radiotherapy - with their potential side effects - is one option, to be balanced against the option of careful monitoring with regular checkups.”

"We need to…develop more targeted treatments for those men whose disease is life-threatening," added Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive. "We also need to develop better tests that will help us to know when to leave harmless forms of the disease alone.”

In October last year charity Prostate Cancer UK unveiled its MANifesto, pledging to triple investment in research into the disease to £25 million, increase support services for men in the UK, and to increase awareness of the condition, promising "a new era of hope for men and men’s health,” broadcaster Neil Fox said at the time.