Men may only need to have one scan between the age of 55 and 60 to be given peace of mind for the rest of their life, experts have said.
National screening programme
The new exam - which has been likened to the mammograms offered to women every three years from age 50 to check for signs of breast cancer - would mark the first time a national screening programme for prostate cancer has been offered on the NHS.
While the test is still under clinical trial, 450 men have already had the potentially lifesaving MRI scan, and 350 more are due to undergo the test later this year.
If the two trials prove successful, researchers expect the checks to be offered from mobile scanners in every major town in England.
The scans should identify men with aggressive tumours, which require treatment to help prevent them from spreading. Those with no signs of cancer, or with less aggressive tumours that are likely not to develop, will be spared treatment.
Professor Mark Emberton, from University College London, who is involved in the upcoming trials, said the scans mark the most important development in prostate cancer diagnosis in years.
He told The Sun, “The trials being done are a world-first and MRI scans are the most important development in prostate cancer diagnosis for 50 years.
“If we show this works, we hope policy-makers will examine the evidence and look at screening for all men aged 55 to 60.
“MRIs are getting cheaper, quicker and simpler, which means they will not need to be done in a hospital.
“It is quite possible for MRIs to be done in supermarket car parks and to have one in every major town."
It is hoped those who have the scan and receive a negative MRI will be given lifelong reassurance that they are not at risk of developing prostate cancer.
“We hope 90 per cent of all men would get a clean bill of health as a result of having a negative MRI," Emberton added.
“A negative MRI is the surest way we have of providing that reassurance.
“If it works, I think in time - and I can’t see why it won’t - maybe we have a test that we can offer men aged 55, as a once in a lifetime test to see if you’re at risk of prostate cancer."
A reliable test?
Despite researchers' claims the test could offer men lifelong reassurance, Cancer Research UK said the charity does not currently support a prostate cancer screening programme as the existing tests are not reliable enough.
However, if strong evidence proved an MRI was effective in identifying prostate cancer risk, it could change the charity's position on the issue.
NHS England said the test marks an exciting and promising step forward for a national screening programme for prostate cancer and could help to save lives by giving men early diagnosis.