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December 2018

Why Your PSA Might Be Rising

An elevated protein-specific antigen (PSA) blood test result can be a warning sign of prostate cancer.

PSA is a protein in blood made by both normal cells and cancer cells. As PSA rises above 4 nanograms per milliliter, the risk for prostate cancer increases as well. According to the American Cancer Society, if the PSA level is between 4 and 10, there’s a 25% chance of prostate cancer. But men with a PSA greater than 10 have more than a 50% chance of receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis.

Still, a rising PSA doesn’t always mean prostate cancer. Here are other factors that can cause PSA to climb.

  • Age. PSA levels tend to increase slowly with age. Men with a normal prostate can have naturally higher PSA levels as they grow older.

  • Riding a bike. Research has produced mixed results, but some studies indicate that cycling may raise PSA levels (possibly because the seat puts pressure on the prostate).

  • Medicine. Certain medicines can increase PSA, such as those that raise testosterone levels. Ask your healthcare provider if any you’re taking could affect your PSA.

  • Medical procedures. Some studies suggest that digital rectal exams (DREs), which providers use to check for prostate cancer, might slightly raise PSA levels. If you’re having a DRE and a PSA test, make sure to get the PSA first.

  • Other prostate problems. A noncancerous condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (an enlarged prostate) can elevate PSA levels; so can prostatitis, an infection or inflammation of the prostate gland.

Should you get your PSA level tested? There are risks and benefits to the blood test, including detecting prostate cancer early (pro) and the possibility of treating tumors that may not be life-threatening and enduring the harmful side effects (con). Discuss the pros and cons with your healthcare provider based on your situation. Annual PSA testing is covered by Medicare for men ages 50 and older and by many private insurers.


Watch a video

This video from the National Cancer Institute provides more information.

Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2018
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