Personalised prostate cancer screening based on an individual's age and genes could prevent men from having unnecessary treatment and save lives.

As Movember enters its second week, the new research funded by Cancer Research UK found that a personalised approach could save the NHS tens of millions of pounds.

The suggested approach involves looking at a man's age, and identifying common genes that increase the risk of prostate cancer. Currently, all men between 55 and 79 are screened for the disease every four years.

There is not a national screening programme for prostate cancer because the only available test, the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test, is not accurate in determining whether a man has cancer. Furthermore, it does not reliably indicate whether the cancer is aggressive and needs treatment.

Treatment can lead to side effects including impotence and incontinence.

According to the researchers, 50 percent fewer men would need to be screened for prostate cancer under the new form of treatment. It is also estimated that 18 percent fewer men would be diagnosed with the disease, which could suggest a reduction in over-diagnoses.

Dr Nora Pashayan, a Cancer Research UK clinician scientist at University College London and study author, said: "We don't have a screening programme for prostate cancer because the benefits are outweighed by the harms.

"Identifying men who are more likely to develop prostate cancer and targeting them for screening could potentially save thousands of men from over-diagnosis and unnecessary treatment.

"We're now refining our model to develop more definite predictions which will then need to be tested in trials to see if this approach will have the effect we predict."

Professor Peter Johnson, chief clinician at the charity, added: "There is great uncertainty about the usefulness of screening for prostate cancer using the PSA test, with many men finding it difficult to weigh up the pros and cons.

"This research suggests an important way to select men for whom testing may be more worthwhile, which points us in the right direction for the future. Cancer Research UK is already funding research that is looking at targeting screening to men at a higher risk of developing the disease."

Around 250,000 men are affected by prostate cancer. It is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in men and it is estimated that one in nine will suffer from the disease at some point in their lives.

Movember began on 1 November and aims to raise awareness of men's health issues. During the month, men around the world are encouraged to grow moustaches for charity. The event started in Melbourne in 2003 and last year raised £79.3 million globally.