PSA: What Does It All Mean?

Well, it’s time to get personal I suppose.  I just had my PSA reading and, in case you were wondering, the reading was 0.8 ng/ml. Now, since the standard threshold for prostate cancer is 4.0 ng/ml, I’m completely and utterly out of the woods, right?  After all, my PSA is about a fifth of what it should be, eh?

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth and this is important because I should in no way take a decent PSA reading as a reason to discontinue standard Prostate Cancer Preventative Measures. For one thing, I spent decades as a good American eating buckets of red meat, dairy and heterocyclic amines, all of which are infamous for promoting cancer “down under”.  [1] (Actually, the data linking hetercyclic amines and prostate cancer is now considered questionable.)  Faithfully, every day all a human being reasonably could to maximize their prostate cancer risk and so, unfortunately, I will need to be ever cautious.

Besides that, the actual PSA reading is increasingly controversial with regard to its accuracy in predicting prostate cancer.  Unfortunately, it is quite correlated with a number of unrelated conditions including BPH, infections and even testosterone levels.  However, it is still important to get a PSA reading, because even a very small increase in PSA could indicate prostate cancer.  This is why it is still very important to get your PSA checked and establish a baseline.  In fact, one paper points out that an increase as small as 0.2 ng/ml often indicates prostate cancer. [2]  Also, this same paper points out that the median PSA reading for men in the 50’s in 0.7 and guys in their 40’s 0.6, so my readings were nothing to brag about in the first place.

The bottom line is that you’re going to see me eating my broccoli and tomatoes for a lot of years to come.


1) CANCER CAUSES AND CONTROL, 2001, 12(6):557-567, “A prospective study on intake of animal products and risk of prostate cancer”


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