Q I am 63 and have an enlarged prostate. When I started to run, my Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels rose – not alarmingly, but enough to cause concern. I stopped running for several weeks and the PSA level dropped. I was told that cycling pushes PSA levels up. Does running do the same?
A Men possess an organ at the base of the bladder known as the prostate gland. Prostate Specific Antigen is one of the fluids it produces, which can be measured by a simple blood test. The PSA level may rise under certain circumstances, the most serious of which is prostate cancer, now a major cause of death in men.
The problem with the PSA test is that it does not give a simple “yes or no answer” to whether you have developed the disease. Prostate cancer is rare in men under 50, but it does sometimes occur. Similarly, the higher the PSA the greater the likelihood that cancer is present, though it has also been discovered in men with normal PSA levels.
Other factors that may raise PSA are increasing age, sexual activity and any form of manipulation of the gland – which could be a bicycle saddle, a doctor’s examination or even the passage of bowel contents in the rectum behind the gland.
It is possible that the repetitive movement of muscles in the pelvis while running could have a similar effect. The PSA level may take a week or so to drop down to its normal level after such artificial elevation as it is a measure of the activity within the gland itself. The prostate may also grow benignly in older men and a small elevation in PSA can result.
A raised PSA should not be ignored. Take a second test to check the original result. If this remains elevated, then referral to a urologist is advisable for further tests, scanning of the organ or even a biopsy to look at the structure of the gland itself. If these tests are negative, have a six-monthly PSA check to monitor any changes.
— Patrick Milroy, RW Medical Adviser