A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test checks the levels of PSA in the blood. This type of antigen is made by the prostate gland. But high levels of it can point to problems, such as prostate cancer. Read on to learn more about PSA and normal levels by age, when you should be screened and what high PSA results may mean.
When Should I Have the PSA Screening?
Prostate cancer is more common in men as they age. But younger men should have a PSA screening if they are considered high risk. High risk factors include a family history of prostate cancer, past cases of other types of cancer or other urological problems. The American Urological Association has markers for when you should be tested:
- Under 40: No screening is needed
- Age 40 to 54: No screening for average risk; possible screening for high risk
- Age 55 to 69: Screening likely, as suggested by your physician
- Over 70: No screening need (because of limited life expectancy)
The American Cancer Society
differs slightly in its guidelines. It suggests men of average risk over 50 be screened.
What Are Normal PSA Levels?
four levels by which PSA levels are measured. These can be put into the categories of:
- Safe: 0 to 2.5 ng/mL
- Safe for most: 2.6 to 4 ng/mL (this level warrants a chat with your MD)
- Suspicious: 4 to 10 ng/mL (there is a substantial risk of prostate cancer)
- Dangerous: 10 ng/mL and higher (you have at least a 50 percent chance of prostate cancer)
All categories except for the “safe” category should prompt you to talk with your doctor about further steps.
What Are Age-Specific PSA Levels?
Normal PSA levels can also be
categorized by age. Anything above the top value warrants at least a “safe for most” category, and you should speak with your doctor as soon as possible.
- Men ages 40 to 49: 0 to 2.0 ng/mL for Asian Americans and African Americans, and 0 to 2.5 ng/mL for Caucasians
- Men ages 50 to 59: 0 to 3.0 ng/mL for Asian Americans, 0 to 4.0 ng/mL for African Americans, and 0 to 3.5 ng/mL for Caucasians
- Men ages 60 to 69: 0 to 4.0 ng/mL for Asian Americans, 0 to 4.5 ng/ mL for African Americans, and 0 to 4.5 ng/mL for Caucasians
- Men aged 70 and above: 0 to 5.0 ng/mL for Asian Americans, 0 to 5.5 ng/mL for African Americans, and 0 to 6.5 ng/mL for Caucasians
Some ethnicities have a higher level of PSA. However, as some of these levels fall within the more generic “suspicious” range, your doctor may ask for further testing.
How Accurate is the PSA Test?
Like any other testing or blood test, there is a chance that the results of the PSA are wrong. This is why a high level warrants further testing. There can be a high
false-positive rate for men who are in the “suspicious” range, due to other factors, like prostate inflammation. While prostate inflammation would still require treatment, it’s not as serious of a condition as prostate cancer.
How Do You Lower PSA Levels?
Men who have prostate cancer will need to visit an oncologist for thorough treatment. However, for men who have high PSA levels or inflammation, there are other treatment options, such as medication. Some medications have an efficacy of 50 percent after six months to a year of use. Certain supplements can lower PSA levels.
What Are Other Causes of PSA Levels?
Other conditions can trigger a high PSA result. Patients may have benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is a non-serious age-related condition, or a urinary tract infection (UTI), which is easily treated. High PSA levels can also be caused by ejaculation or vigorous exercise.