An elevated PSA level can be the first sign of prostate cancer, but it can also be a sign of a less serious condition. Find out why you might have an abnormal PSA level.
The PSA test measures a protein in your blood called PSA. Prostate cancer raises PSA levels, but an elevated PSA result does not always mean that a man has prostate cancer. Sometimes PSA test results are elevated because of a mild abnormality, such as ejaculation within 24 hours before the test, or a condition that needs treatment, such as a urinary tract infection, but that is not cancer. Since the test cannot distinguish serious causes of a high PSA level from other causes, it is recommended that a PSA test should not be performed in healthy men. That is, men with no family history, known risk factors, or symptoms of prostate cancer.
Seven reasons, besides prostate cancer, cause your PSA level to be higher than normal.
1. Aging affects PSA levels
Even without a prostate problem, your PSA level may rise gradually as you age. At age 40, a PSA level of 2.5 is the normal limit. At age 60, the maximum is 4.5, and at age 70 a PSA of 6.5 can be considered normal.
2. Prostatitis: a common problem in men under the age of 50
The PSA test is a good screening tool for prostate cancer. But it is not very specific. Common causes of inflammation of the gland, called prostatitis, can lead to elevated PSA levels. Prostatitis is the most common prostate problem in men under the age of 50. Prostatitis caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotics. There is another, more common type of prostatitis called non-bacterial prostatitis, and it can be more difficult to treat and can last for a long time.
3. Medical procedures can raise PSA levels
Anything that painfully interferes with the structure surrounding the prostate can raise PSA levels. One of the most common reasons for a significantly elevated PSA level in this type of trauma is bladder catheterization. Another reason is an examination of the prostate or bladder that involves passing an endoscope or biopsy. “Because it takes two to three days for your PSA to halve, you should wait two to three weeks after this type of shock to get a PSA test.
4. In men over the age of 50: BPH may be the cause of an elevated PSA level
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is an enlargement of the prostate. But it is not prostate cancer. BPH means more cells, and therefore more cells that make PSA. Benign prostatic hyperplasia is the most common prostate problem in men over the age of 50. It is not necessarily treated, unless it causes frequent or difficult urination. Your GP may be able to tell the difference between BPH and prostate cancer by doing a digital rectal exam. But this usually requires evaluation by a urologist and additional tests, such as a biopsy or imaging tests.
5. High PSA levels due to urinary tract infection
Any infection near the prostate, including a urinary tract infection, can irritate and inflame the prostate cells and cause PSA levels to rise. If you have been diagnosed with a UTI, wait until the infection is gone before getting a PSA test. Most urinary tract infections in men are caused by bacteria and respond well to antibiotics. Having benign prostatic hyperplasia increases your risk of developing a urinary tract infection.
6. Ejaculation is a possible cause of a slightly elevated PSA
Ejaculation can cause a slight elevation in the PSA level. The same goes for a digital rectal exam. These types of PSA elevations are usually not enough to make much difference unless your PSA is the cut-off. The PSA level should return to normal within two to three days.
7. Can cycling increase PSA levels?
Studies have sometimes found a link between prolonged cycling and increased PSA levels, but others have not. You’ll probably have to be a Lance Armstrong biker to worry about cycling and your PSA going up.
* Presse Santé strives to impart medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In no way can the information provided replace medical advice.
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