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What are PSA levels and what do they mean?

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Quick Answer

A PSA level is a measurement of the concentration of prostate-specific antigen in the blood, explains MedicineNet.com. PSA is a substance produced in the prostate, and elevated levels can indicate the presence of disease, such as prostate cancer, prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia.

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Full Answer

In the past, routine yearly PSA screening for prostate cancer was recommended for all men over the age of 50, according to the American Cancer Society. PSA levels above 4.0 nanograms per milliliter required a follow-up prostate biopsy. This is no longer indicated because studies found that some men with PSA levels below 4.0 nanograms per milliliter have prostate cancer, and many patients with elevated levels do not.

The recommendation for prostate cancer screening in 2015 includes a thorough discussion between the patient and his doctor of the risks, benefits and doubts before any testing takes place, suggests the American Cancer Society. Men with an average risk for prostate cancer and a life expectancy of more than 10 years can start the discussion at age 50.

Men who are at a high risk for prostate cancer can discuss screening when they turn 45 years old, explains ACS. People in the high-risk group include African-American males and men who have a first-degree relative with a history of prostate cancer diagnosed before the age of 65. Men who have more than one first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age can discuss screening at age 40.

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