Q:

What causes elevated PSA prostate readings?

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Quick Answer

Several different factors cause elevations of the prostate-specific antigen, including prostate cancer and noncancerous conditions, according to Mayo Clinic. In most men, the PSA levels are below 4 nanograms per milliliter, which is the traditional cutoff for concerns about cancer; however, prostate cancer is possible regardless of the PSA level.

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Full Answer

Before having a PSA test, men should discuss the benefits and risks with their health care provider. Several agencies, including the American Cancer Society, recognize the controversy surrounding the PSA test. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends against testing for men free of symptoms indicating prostate cancer due to the risks, according to Mayo Clinic.

Unlike other cancers, early detection of prostate cancer does not necessarily prevent death, according to the National Cancer Institute. Most prostate cancers are slow growing. The use of PSA tests for screening often detects tumors that are not causing other symptoms, which has significant psychological and physical effects on the patient and his family. Biopsies often lead to infections and other complications. Treatment for the slow-growing tumors often leads to incontinence and impotence.

The PSA test can return false negatives for men with prostate cancer, according to WebMD. False positives are often due to the aging process and noncancerous prostate enlargement.

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