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Prostate specific antigen (PSA) is a protein made in both healthy and unhealthy prostate glands. The amount of PSA in your blood is related to the overall size of the prostate gland, and a high PSA score could be an indication of prostate cancer. However, PSA levels can also be raised for a number of other reasons, including urinary tract infection (UTI), inflammation of the prostate, benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), and even ejaculation. Therefore, it is a good idea to discuss your PSA results with your urologist or primary care physician.
PSA is a little bit like cholesterol—the total number isn't as important as the breakdown of two components is. Like testosterone, your PSA test should measure "free" PSA and "bound" PSA.
The lower the free PSA, the more likelihood there is to be cancer (usually, less than 15 percent free PSA means you should have a biopsy). The reason? Cancer cells make compounds that enhance the binding of PSA, making the number an important clue if the PSA is in the borderline range of 4 to 10.
Another side note: PSA (which, to repeat, isn't cancer but indicates an irritation of the prostate) can be elevated by such things as urinary infection, bike riding, prostatitis, or having sex within 24 hours of the test.
Here's where PSA levels should be at various ages, remembering that an increase over time is more indicative of a problem than just a single test:
Age PSA Levels (nanograms of PSA per milliliter of blood, or ng/ml)
- 40–49 0 to 0.25
- 50–59 0 to 3.5
- 60–69 0 to 4.5
- 70–79 0 to 6.5
A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test to screen for prostate cancer. If your score is greater than 4, then you may be referred for a prostate biopsy.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.