If you’re a man over 50, you’ve likely thought about or taken a PSA, or prostate-specific antigen test, a blood test that is used to screen for prostate cancer.
The risk of developing this cancer—the most common form of cancer discovered in men and the second highest cause of cancer-related death in men—rises with age. Most prostate cancers are diagnosed in men age 65 to 69.
But even though deaths from prostate cancer have dropped since the PSA test came on the scene—from 31.6 per 100,000 in population in 1999 to 18.9 in 2015—it’s still one of the most controversial medical tests that aging men regularly receive.
The problem with the PSA
The prostate-specific antigen is a protein produced by normal as well as malignant cells. Your PSA can rise due to an enlarged prostate, a benign condition that often occurs as men age, or due to an infection that causes prostatitis. You could also have a so-called indolent cancer that is not likely to ever cause death. Men often live to very old age with these cancer cells in their prostates and don’t die from prostate cancer.
Despite this lack of clarity, a high or rising PSA often leads doctors to recommend that men get ...