An abnormally high PSA level can be a sign of prostate cancer, but it can also be a sign of a less-serious condition.
There Are Many Reasons For An Abnormal PSA Reading.
When a man has a PSA test it measures a protein in his blood called prostate specific antigen. Prostate cancer makes PSA levels go higher, but a high PSA test result doesn’t always mean a man has prostate cancer.
Sometimes PSA readings are elevated because of something benign and that has nothing to do with cancer. For instance, two reasons could be: ejaculating within 24 hours of the test, or a problem that needs treatment like a urinary tract infection.
Because the test can’t distinguish between serious causes of elevated PSA and other causes, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has historically recommended against prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing in healthy men/men who have no family history, known risk factors, or symptoms of prostate cancer.
However in 2017, the USPSTF released new draft guidelines that encourage doctors to discuss the potential benefits and harms of using the PSA test to screen for cancer in men ages 55 to 69. The final recommendation statement is now being developed.
Here are five reasons, besides prostate cancer, your PSA level could be above normal.
1. Aging Affects PSA Levels
PSA levels can rise gradually as you age even without any prostate problems. At age 40 the normal limit for PSA is 2.5, and by age 60 the limit rises to 4.5 and even higher at age 70 where 6.5 could be considered normal.
2. A Common Problem in Men Under 50; Prostatitis
Common causes of inflammation in the prostate gland, called prostatitis, can cause high PSA levels, and prostatitis is the most common problem for men under the age of 50, so it is very prevalent. Prostatitis is caused by bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics. However, another type of prostatitis, called nonbacterial prostatitis, can be harder to treat and may last a long time.
3. PSA Can Rise Due to Medical Procedures
A catheter in the bladder or any type of procedure that traumatically interferes with the architecture around the prostate gland can make PSA go up. Another factor that could make the PSA rise is a prostate or bladder exam that involves passing a scope or taking a biopsy.
4. BPH May Be the Cause of High PSA In Men Over 50
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is an enlargement of the prostate gland, but it’s not prostate cancer and it is the most common prostate problem in men over age 50.
In some cases a primary care doctor may be able to tell the difference between BPH and prostate cancer by doing a digital rectal exam, but usually this will require evaluation by a urologist and further testing, such as a biopsy or imaging studies.
5. Urinary Tract Infections Can Cause High PSA Levels
A man suffering from any infection near the prostate gland, including a urinary tract infection, can have a higher PSA because the infection can irritate and inflame prostate cells.
Men who have been diagnosed with a urinary tract infection should wait until after the infection has cleared up before they get a PSA test. Having BPH increases your risk for a urinary tract infection.
Despite Not Being Perfect, PSA is Still a Really Important Screening Test for Prostate Cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung and colon cancer.