However, the current screening test for prostate cancer is so unreliable that applying it to symptomless men across the board would do more harm than good.
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is thought to miss around 15 per cent of cancers, while flagging up many which will never pose a risk.
By contrast, the new MRI test, which involves no injection or radiation and does not require a doctor, has been honed to diagnose only cancers which will affect “quantity or quality of life”, according to Professor Mark Emberton, from University College London (UCL), who is co-leading the project.
He believes that around 90 per cent of men who take the test before they reach retirement age can be told with confidence they need never worry about the disease.
“Prostate cancer is pretty slow-growing, so if you’re prostate comes back looking very clean at 55, 60 – I don’t know what age we’ll chose yet – you’re probably very unlikely to get prostate cancer,” he said.
“What’s beautiful about MRI is it overlooks the many, many cancers which don’t need to be diagnosed.
“That’s the revolution.”