A PSA About PSA Levels: Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Prostate Cancer
(Read time: 5 minutes)
This article is not intended to replace professional medical care or advice. If you have any questions or need additional information, please talk with your doctor.
Medical technology is constantly improving, but the best way to deal with prostate cancer may be lowering your odds of getting it in the first place.
If your doctor has determined that you are at high risk for prostate cancer, there are smart lifestyle changes that can substantially improve your chances of living prostate cancer-free. Most of these changes are related to diet and exercise and will lead to a healthier lifestyle overall.
But first, let’s talk about what prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels are and why they matter.
What is PSA? And why is it important to monitor?
Prostate-specific antigens (PSA)s are naturally occurring. Cells within the prostate gland produce PSA, which is typically found in semen, but may be present in trace amounts in the blood as well.
The (PSA) blood test is one of two exams used in the early screening of prostate cancer. Approved by the FDA in 1986, the test was intended to monitor the progression of the disease among those who were already diagnosed, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Right now Medicare covers yearly PSA screenings for men 50 and older who are Medicare-eligible. Many private insurers likewise cover the test. Patient advocacy groups, such as ZERO –The End of Prostate Cancer, offer support in accessing PSA testing and finding free testing in your community.
While age and genetics both affect PSA levels, lifestyle factors actually play the largest role. That’s why simple changes to health, diet, and exercise routines can naturally bring down PSA levels.
What does it mean to have an elevated PSA?
According to Cancer.org, a low PSA level is a sign of good prostate and overall health, while a high PSA level is a sign of risk of prostate cancer. As such, a low PSA level is ideal.
Among men who do not have prostate cancer, typical PSA levels under 4 ng/mL of blood, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). As PSA levels rise, so does the risk for prostate cancer. For those with a PSA level over 10, the chance of having prostate cancer is more than 50 percent.
That being said, heightened levels do not always indicate that cancer is present. There is also no guarantee that PSA levels below 4 ng/mL means there is no prostate cancer.
What factors can impact PSA level?
Several conditions can lead to an elevated PSA level, not just prostate cancer.
As men grow older, many are affected by prostatitis, an inflammation of the prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate which causes PSA levels to rise. Ejaculation, male hormone medications, and some urologic procedures can also lead to an elevated reading.
Additionally, PSA levels tend to slowly rise with age, even if there is no abnormality within the prostate.
There are several factors that may cause a lowered PSA level as well. Patients who are overweight, frequently take aspirin, or use certain cholesterol-lowering drugs may see misleadingly low changes in their PSA levels.
Similarly, medication for the urinary symptoms of BPH, such as finasteride or dutasteride, may cause misleadingly low PSA levels.
Natural ways to lower PSA levels
If you’re at risk for prostate cancer, or if your PSA levels are high, it’s very important to try to lower your PSA levels as much as possible. Fortunately, there are several natural ways to do that while also living a healthier life.
1. Stay lean
Cancer (not just prostate cancer) is more common in overweight and obese people. In fact, a recent study found a correlation between obesity and the risk of getting prostate cancer.
Why is there a connection? Obesity can impact the prostate and lead to things like altered sex hormones, inflammation of the prostate, and higher insulin levels. These issues can facilitate the growth of prostate cancer.
Obesity not only comes with an increased risk of prostate cancer, it can also increases the aggressiveness of prostate cancer. According to the Harvard Medical School, “obese men were 2.2 times more likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer than lean men were; each 22 pounds of excess weight boosted risk by 40%”.
2. Exercise regularly
We all know the value of exercise, but did you know that working out can help protect you from prostate cancer?
A study from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that men who engaged in “long-term vigorous exercise” had a “30% lower risk of developing advanced prostate cancer and 25% lower risk of developing lethal prostate cancer” than those who did not.
But which exercise is best? A range of exercises qualified as “vigorous” under the study, including: swimming, working outside, general spots, and cycling
- Strength training boosts your muscle mass and resting metabolic rate (RMR). We recommend lifting weights, doing pull-ups, or push-ups
- Aerobic exercise helps you burn calories and also activates your RMR. Running, dancing, hiking, biking, and playing sports are all good forms of aerobic exercise.
Don’t forget: exercise has been linked to increased quality of life. In other words, it’s a good idea to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine if you’re not doing so already.
3. Eat smarter
It should come as no surprise, but a high-fat diet has been linked to prostate cancer. A high-fat diet can boost testosterone levels, which in turn can create an increased risk in developing prostate cancer.
Not all fats are created equal. While a low-fat diet has been shown to lower the odds of prostate cancer, it depends on which fats you’re eating. Animal fats (like cheese and meat) are far more detrimental than vegetable fats, which tend to be healthier.
Omega-3 fatty acids, for instance, may reduce your chances of dying from prostate cancer.
Fats aside, there are also some additional dietary practices that may help curb your risk:
- Although scientists aren’t sure why, eating tomatoes could help prevent prostate cancer.
- Research shows that high levels of Vitamin E may be linked to prostate cancer.
- A diet high in fruit may help, but the research is inconclusive.
Lowering your PSA levels leads to better prostate health
There is no sure-fire way to avoid prostate cancer. But you can mitigate your risks by living a healthier lifestyle. And a healthier lifestyle can give you a better quality of life in general.
Whether you’re at risk or not, you should discuss getting your PSA levels tested with your physician, especially if you’re over 65 years old. If you don’t have a physician or would like to switch physicians, use our free Physician Finder tool:
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*Please note, there may be other doctors in your area who treat prostate cancer not listed here.