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Research on the PSA Test

The benefits of screening for prostate cancer are still being studied. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is currently conducting the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, or PLCO trial, to determine if certain screening tests reduce the number of deaths from these cancers.
The digital rectal exam and PSA test are being studied to determine whether yearly screening to detect prostate cancer will decrease a man's chances of dying from the disease. Full results from this study are expected in several years. Scientists also are researching ways to distinguish between cancerous and benign conditions, as well as between slow-growing cancers and fast-growing, potentially lethal cancers.


The following points are important to keep in mind regarding a PSA test:
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein produced by the cells of the prostate gland. The test measures the level of PSA in the blood.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the PSA test, along with a digital rectal exam, to help detect prostate cancer in men age 50 and older. The FDA has also approved the test to monitor men with a history of prostate cancer to see if the cancer has come back (recurred).
  • Doctors' recommendations for the PSA test and prostate cancer screening vary.
  • The higher a man's PSA level, the more likely it is that cancer is present, but there are many other possible reasons for an elevated PSA level.
  • The PSA screening test has its limitations and is still controversial.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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