The Zoomer Report: PSA Velocity

Here’s important news about men’s health. A large study shows that a rising PSA level isn’t such a good predictor of prostate cancer after all and can lead to many unnecessary biopsies. Most men over 50 get PSA blood tests, but they’re hugely problematic. Too much PSA, or prostate-specific antigen, only sometimes signals prostate cancer — it also can mean a benign enlarged prostate or an infection. And screening often detects small tumours that will prove too slow-growing to be deadly. Yet there’s no sure way to tell in advance who needs aggressive therapy.

On the other hand, some men have cancer despite a “normal” PSA count of 4 or below. Until now, a rapidly rising PSA level has been considered very worrisome, and some guidelines urge doctors to consider a biopsy even if the level is still normal.

So researchers at the famous Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center studied whether considering the increase in PSA levels adds value to the decision on whether to biopsy otherwise low-risk men. They concluded it doesn’t.

The study authors say the PSA level alone, not its rise, is a much better predictor of a tumour. Focusing on PSA’s rise instead triggered many more biopsies, with close to 1 in 7 American men who would get one. That compares with 1 in 20 men who would get one for a high PSA level alone. Bottom line, talk to your doctor.

Photo © Jenna Wagner

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Libby ZnaimerAbout The Zoomer Report

Libby Znaimer, a prominent Canadian journalist specializing in business, politics, and lifestyle issues, is producer and host of The Zoomer Report, a special feature on topics of interest to baby boomers and the 50+. It covers everything from health and wealth to leisure and volunteerism, from the special vantage point of the generation that has changed society in its wake.

Ms. Znaimer is also Vice-President of News and Information for Classical 96.3FM and AM740. Her first book, “In Cancerland – Living Well Is The Best Revenge” – was published in October 2007 by Key Porter.

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