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Men's Health

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Save Your Prostate: Get a PSA Test

What is a PSA test anyway — and do you really need to get one?
WebMD Feature

Like his favorite car, a guy's body needs regular checkups one that includes a screening for prostate cancer, otherwise known as a PSA test. The risk of prostate cancer goes up every year after age 50, that's why men need to take steps in preventing it, or making sure it's detected early.

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is the best way to detect prostate cancer in its early stages. It's typically done along with a rectal exam, because most malignant prostate tumors start nearest the rectum. With these two exams, prostate cancer can be detected when it's most treatable.

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PSA Tests and Prostate Cancer Risk Factors

Though all men should get a PSA test after the age of 50, some may need one sooner, if they have certain prostate cancer risk factors, which include:

  • Family history: Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles your risk, according to the American Cancer Society. Men who have multiple family members affected have even higher risk so screening should start at age 40.
  • Ethnicity: African-American men have 60% higher rate of prostate cancer, compared to white American men so they should also begin screening at age 40.
  • Diet: A high-fat diet seems to contribute to prostate cancer. Switching to a diet high in the antioxidant lycopene may lower your risk so get plenty of tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon, which contain high levels of lycopene.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Getting regular exercise and keeping weight under control seems to reduce risk for prostate cancer, and especially for aggressive cancer. One survey of nearly 70,000 American men found that those who lost at least 11 pounds over a 10-year period were about 40% less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancers, compared to guys who had little weight change.
  • Age: This is the biggest factor. After age 50, prostate cancer risk rises significantly. About two-thirds of all prostate cancers occur in men age 65 and older.

Reviewed on May 22, 2007

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