You may hear a doctor say you have a normal PSA reading. This means the results of a blood test showed normal levels of prostate specific antigens in your blood. You may know that a high PSA reading can indicate a risk for prostate cancer and other health problems. So you may wonder, exactly what is a normal reading, and what it means for your health.
Prostate specific antigens are proteins produced by the prostate gland. According to the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, a normal PSA reading ranges from 0 to 4 ng/mL. A reading over 4 ng/mL may give cause for concern, although many older men have high levels of PSA but no other health consequences.
According to Lancome Medical Center of New York University, men with low-to-normal PSA levels (below 1.5 ng/mL) have a very low risk for prostate cancer. The National Cancer Institute found, however, in a large-scale study that about 15 percent of the men who never had a high PSA test reading still developed prostate cancer. The study has placed the value of the PSA test in question.
PSA levels naturally increase as men age. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that some experts use age-adjusted levels to determine what a normal PSA reading should be. Unfortunately, NCI points out, using adjusted age ranges may lead to missed diagnoses of cancer in older men.
African-American men may have higher levels of PSA without showing an increased risk for prostate cancer or other health problems. According to NCI, African Americans in their 50s and 60s may have a reading as much as 1 ng/mL higher than men from other ethnic groups. The reasons for this difference are not clear.
Some health and lifestyle factors may lower a person's PSA readings. According to the Mayo Clinic, obese men tend to have lower PSA readings than other men. Men taking prescription medication for prostate illnesses, or dietary supplements claiming to boost prostate health may also have lower PSA readings. These apparently normal PSA readings may actually mask the individual's actual risk for prostate cancer.