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Finding prostate cancer sooner

Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia have developed a new blood test that may detect prostate cancer sooner than current methods. The procedure, called a PCR test, should be used in conjunction with the current PSA blood test, says Dr. Jose Moreno, chief resident in urology at Jefferson. Prostate cancer is fatal if not caught in time, and some 38,000 American men will die of the disease this year. About 200,000 new cases will be detected this year, up almost 80,000 from four years ago. Officials at the National Cancer Data Base in Chicago attribute the rise to earlier detection of the disease, not to an epidemic. What can men over 50 do to minimize the risk? Moreno suggests having an annual rectal test and a PSA test. Blacks, who have a higher incidence of prostate cancer, should begin this routine at age 40. For more information about prostate cancer, call the American Cancer Society's toll-free number (800) ACS-2345, or your local cancer society.

Travel free with a little planning

If you have the urge to travel, but are worried about the cost, Freebies (& More) for Folks Over 50 (Probus, $9.95) by Linda Bowman has some thoughts. Here are some ways to travel for free:

Become a tour escort for a travel agency that operates tours. Tour operators are always looking for interesting people to lead tours. If you are fluent in one or more foreign languages, your services could be especially desirable.

Organize your own tour. If you can enlist enough people, you get the trip for free.

Become an air courier. This involves accompanying freight, usually small parcels and envelopes filled with documents, that are checked as baggage. On overseas flights, the package arrives with the courier and is processed through customs immediately. Courier companies offer assignments to the general public in exchange for free or deeply discounted tickets (70 percent or more off). Couriers have to be flexible and be able to travel light.

Alone, but no need to be lonely

If you want to be alone but not that alone, Loners on Wheels may be the answer. The club is for single recreational vehicle owners. It began 25 years ago when six campers gathered around a bonfire in Death Valley, Calif. The organization now has almost 3,000 widowed, divorced and never-married members. On Nov. 2-6, they will celebrate the silver anniversary of Loners On Wheels at the Sunset Campground, across the road from Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley National Monument. For information, contact Loners at 5824 Cowden St., Fort Worth, Texas 76114.

A love affair with Costa Rica

Christopher Howard retired to Costa Rica and fell in love with the place. He has written The Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica, which he calls the "little Switzerland of America." He says Costa Rica, two hours by air from Florida, has year-round springlike weather, a lack of violent crime, low living costs, inexpensive medical care and excellent transportation. Howard, a columnist for the newspaper Costa Rica Today, shows readers how to get along on $30 a day, who to contact to obtain legal status and how to get around the country without a car. For a copy, send $13.95 plus $2.50 for shipping to Costa Rica Books, P.O. Box 1512, Thousand Oaks, Calif. 91358.