What Are the Different Levels of PSA?

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PSA tests are one tool used to determine prostate cancer risk.
PSA tests are one tool used to determine prostate cancer risk. (Image: men image by Mat Hayward from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

PSAs, or prostate specific antigens, are proteins produced by cells in the prostate gland. The PSA test is a Food and Drug Administration approved blood test used to help determine prostate cancer risk. Although there may be several reasons for high PSA levels, increased levels of this antigen in the blood can indicate the presence of cancer. PSA test results are given in ng/ML, or nanograms of PSA per milliliter of blood.

2.5 to 3.0 ng/mL

According to WebMD, some physicians recommend further tests for prostate cancer if PSA levels are as low as 2.5 to 3.0 ng/mL. Men with these PSA levels have tested positive for prostate cancer, even when physical examination revealed a seemingly normal prostate. According to the same website, this recommendation is of particular relevance for younger men, as younger men have smaller prostates and typically lower PSA levels. Therefore, these physicians believe a young man testing above 2.5 ng/mL may be at increased risk of prostate cancer.

3.0 to 4.0 ng/mL

Fifteen percent of men who had a seemingly normal prostate on physical examination and a PSA level of 4.0 or below had cancer, while 2.3 percent had more severe forms of the disease. A PSA test of 4.0 ng/mL and below has been the traditional cutoff level for concern and is still used by many physicians as of 2010.

4.1 to 10.0 ng/mL

Men whose PSA levels were between 4.1 and 10.0 ng/mL had a 25 percent chance of having prostate cancer. Several conditions, however, can produce elevated PSA levels, including common infections, prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate, and benign prostatic hyperplasia, or enlarged prostate.

10.0 ng/mL and above

PSA levels of 10.0 and above are of particular concern to physicians, according to WebMD. These levels indicate a 67 percent chance of having prostate cancer, though other conditions can also produce these levels.

PSA Level Patterns

According to WebMD, factors other than simple PSA levels must be considered when evaluating prostate cancer risk, such as other conditions that may produce elevated PSA levels, age and past PSA results. Quickly rising PSA results are of more concern, as are elevated levels in men over age 40.

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