A blood test for prostate cancer could spare thousands of men from unnecessary biopsies.

Experts say the breakthrough offers ‘great promise’ for detection of the disease, which is the most common cancer among men in the UK, affecting one in eight during their lifetime.

Men who visit their GP with symptoms receive a blood test called a PSA test, which can be inaccurate.

A new check was found to pick up 91 per cent of positive cases in 210 men with suspected prostate cancer.

It produced zero false positive results for men who do not have prostate cancer, so could spare thousands a painful biopsy or MRI scan which they may have been sent for based on a wrong PSA result.

The new liquid biopsy works by picking up tumour cells from prostate cancer in the blood.

A team including researchers from India and Imperial College London trialled it on men with signs of suspected cancer, like an enlarged prostate or urinary symptoms.

A third of these men were later found to have prostate cancer, while two-thirds had benign prostate conditions.

Among the 68 men with the cancer, the test was positive for 56 and gave a result which was less clear but unlikely to be negative for six of them.

It provided a negative result for all 142 men who did not have prostate cancer.

Simon Grieveson, of Prostate Cancer UK, said: ‘The detection of cancer cells in the blood has shown huge potential in recent years, and Prostate Cancer UK and Movember are jointly funding research into whether this could also help decide the best treatment for men with cancer still localised to the prostate.

‘These results show great promise and suggest that it may be possible to use this test to detect the cancer in the first place.’

The standard test used by the NHS looks for prostate-specific antigen – a type of protein from the prostate.

Last month a blood test combining the PSA check with one looking for changes in immune cells within the blood was found to be 93 per cent accurate for positive results when tested on 147 men.

Scientists are excited about a next generation of more accurate blood tests, which could perhaps be used to screen healthy men for early signs of cancer. The research was published in Cancer Medicine.