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How to Understand Your PSA Levels

And the Lab Tests You Need to Get an Accurate Reading
March 29, 2023
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Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men worldwide.

Approximately one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime.

The good news is that prostate cancer grows slowly and is treatable when identified and treated early. That’s why many healthcare professionals recommend regular prostate screenings as men age into their 50s and 60s.

Doctors recommend combining a PSA blood test, digital rectal exam (DRE), physical exam, and other hormone lab tests, if you have a family history or are concerned about prostate cancer.

Keep reading to find out what is normal PSA by age, what is a high level, and what is a dangerous level. We’ll also help you identify the lab tests you need to understand your PSA level and show you how to lower it naturally.

What is a PSA Test?

A prostate-specific antigen blood test measures the level of PSA proteins in your blood. This protein is made by the prostate. If levels are high, it is a strong indicator that cancer may be present.

In addition to preventative screening, this test is commonly used to monitor men post-surgery or radiation therapy.

It is a highly effective method for confirming whether cancer has returned.

How to Understand Your Levels

The higher the PSA level in your blood, the more likely you have a prostate issue. However, your PSA levels can be effected by several non-cancer-related factors, such as:

  • Advanced age (over 50)
  • Race (Black and Hispanic men have a greater risk compared to other races or ethnicities)
  • Excess weight
  • Genetics
  • Certain medical procedures
  • Certain medications
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Prostate infection

It’s also important to consider that some prostates naturally produce more PSA than others. That's why getting a medical professional to help you interpret and understand your PSA test results is essential.

A PSA level below 4.0 ng/mL is generally considered within the normal range. Anything higher is considered suspect. However, it is normal for older men to have elevated PSA levels.

What is Normal PSA by Age?

Here is an age-adjusted scale for normal PSA levels. This accounts for benign prostate enlargement that can elevate PSAs in the blood:

  • 0-2.5 ng/mL: Men aged 40-50 years
  • 2.5-3.5 ng/mL: Men aged 50-60 years
  • 3.5-4.5 ng/mL: Men aged 60-70 years
  • 4.5-5.5 ng/mL: Men aged 70-80 years

What is A High PSA Level?

Unfortunately, there is no standard PSA level that can identify whether a man has prostate cancer.

A good rule of thumb is to seek further testing if:

  • You’ve never had prostate cancer before,
  • And have PSA levels above what is considered normal for your age range.

For example, men between 50 and 60 should seek further testing if they have PSA levels above 3.5 ng/mL, which could indicate an increased risk of prostate cancer.

What is a Dangerous PSA Level?

PSA levels above 10 ng/ML are considered dangerous. Patients should consult with their medical doctor immediately.

Elevated PSA levels may indicate prostate cancer or other infections or conditions.

What Are Some Other Prostate Tests?

The best way to test your PSA levels is with a physician-approved PSA lab test from Ulta Lab Tests. Our tests are convenient, affordable, and always confidential.

We offer easy access to a variety of testing options that can check PSA levels, including:

Quest Diagnostics conducts all tests. Results are typically available within 1-2 business days.
Doctor's orders are never required.

How to Lower PSA

While age, race, and genetics play a role in your PSA levels, you can help lower PSA naturally with simple lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
    Excess weight can impact the prostate and lead to altered sex hormones, prostate inflammation, and higher insulin levels, which can all encourage the growth of prostate cancer.
  • Exercise regularly

Daily exercise is good for your overall health and well-being. It can also lower your risk for prostate cancer, particularly when you combine strength training (lifting weights) and cardio (e.g., swimming, cycling, or jogging).

  • Eat healthy foods

Fill your plate with dark, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, plenty of fruit, whole grains, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Making healthy choices a daily habit can improve your overall health and lower your risk of prostate cancer.

What Happens if Testing Confirms a Prostate Cancer Diagnosis?

If the results of your PSA blood test, DRE (digital rectal exam), physical exam, or other lab tests suggest prostate cancer, your next step will most likely be a prostate biopsy.

A prostate biopsy is an outpatient procedure to remove suspicious tissue samples from the prostate. It usually takes between 30-45 minutes to complete.

If the prostate biopsy results are positive, your doctor will then need to determine how aggressive the cancer is and the appropriate treatment protocol.

How Often Should Patients Get Screened?

Healthy men with no prior family history of prostate cancer should begin PSA screening at age 55. If PSA levels are within a normal range for your age, your doctor may recommend screening every 2-3 years.

However, you may need screening sooner (between the ages of 40 and 54) if you have an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Depending on your PSA lab results, your doctor will determine how often you should be screened for prostate cancer.

What Medications Can Increase PSA Levels?

The following medications can increase levels of prostate-specific antigen in the blood and falsely indicate the presence of prostate cancer:

  • Betamethasone (an anti-inflammatory steroid)
  • Testosterone replacement therapy (e.g., Jatenzo)

One of the biggest reasons to get your PSA levels checked is that early prostate cancers are often asymptomatic. If symptoms do occur, it usually indicates a worse stage of cancer.

Visit Ulta Lab Tests to access the tests you need, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms of low PSA, such as:

  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Pain in the abdomen or pelvic area
  • Frequent urges to urinate

Once you know your levels, you can take the information to your primary care doctor or specialist to determine your next best steps.

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