THE message behind the 'Little Prick' campaign has been forgotten, leaving Hunter men vulnerable to return to the high prostate cancer mortality rates of almost 20 years ago, Professor Jim Denham says.
The Hunter radiation oncologist and researcher said the 2007 campaign - which encouraged men over the age of 50 to have a simple blood test - had successfully contributed to a 36 per cent drop in mortality for prostate cancer.
"What has happened in the Hunter since 2007 is that the detection rate has dropped precipitously by about 39 per cent," Professor Denham said.
"That is quite a sharp drop.
"But in about five-to-10-years time, we are likely to be exactly where we were back in 2000 - where we had the lowest detection rate and the highest mortality rate in the state.
"This is a real problem."
The dropping detection rate meant men were not being diagnosed.
It indicated they were not getting their "little prick" test to check their prostate-specific antigen - or PSA - levels regularly.
Prior to the Little Prick campaign, the Hunter men who were diagnosed, were diagnosed "far too late".
"That's why the mortality rate in the Hunter was 40 per cent higher than the mortality rate in Sydney back before 2007," he said ahead of the inaugural Newcastle's Biggest Ever Blokes Lunch.
"Fortunately we have caught up, to a large extent, with our colleagues in Sydney when it comes to treatment and mortality - so that situation has improved nicely thanks to the stimulus of the Little Prick campaign.
"And clinical trials, such as the RADAR trial, was a big component of it too - because most of the men with the nasty cancers had the RADAR treatment.
"But as far as detection rates go, compared to the rest of the state, they aren't that good.
"If the detection rates keep falling further, we will be back to the 2000s."
Professor Denham said that, as well as a new and ongoing awareness campaign encouraging men to get their PSA levels checked annually, blokes should also be mindful that an expanding waistline is a risk factor.
"They get a bit tubby and what happens then is their insulin levels rise, and when that happens, insulin marries up with a growth factor, and it actually feeds cancers like prostate cancer," Professor Denham said.
"It isn't something that happens dramatically, but it takes just a few years and that's it, the patient has cancer.
"There is a definite link.
"Reducing weight is not only good from that perspective - preventing cancer - but it also prevents people from heart attacks and diabetes."
The Biggest Ever Blokes Lunch, at Merewether Surfhouse on May 31, will raise money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.