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PSA Levels in Relation to Prostate Cancer


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PSA stands for Prostate-Specific Antigen. PSA is produced by all of the cells in the prostate gland. It doesn't matter whether the cells are normal or cancerous. They all produce PSA. Malignant cells, however, leak roughly ten times as much PSA into the bloodstream than normal cells. Since the prostate generally increases in size as men age, the PSA levels will also increase as one gets older.

Many urologists believe that biopsies should be performed on any male who has a PSA level of 4.0 ng/ml or higher. However, according to Dr. David Williams of Alternatives, the following are the maximum PSA levels that most men should have. If most urologists followed these guidelines, there would be far fewer biopsies:


40-49 years of age 2.5 ng/ml

50-59 years of age 3.5 ng/ml

60-69 years of age 5.0 ng/ml

70-79 years of age 6.5 ng/ml

Since PSA testing began, the apparent incidence of prostate cancer has doubled in the United States. It's not that the cancer rate is increasing, it's just that we are detecting more cancer. But better detection has not resulted in more cures. The mortality rate among prostate patients has not decreased at all. And small elevations in PSA levels have become a gold mine for urologists, resulting in thousands of unnecessary biopsies and treatment programs each year.

Some scientists believe that PSA screening may be unable to detect prostate cancer because more men who were screened died from prostate cancer compared with those who were not. The conclusion is controversial because it is based on an original research paper which had suggested that PSA screening could reduce death from prostate cancer by 69%. But some experts to whom the paper was presented said the research was flawed.

Only 23% of the men invited to join the screening program actually did so, but the researchers had not allowed for this. In addition, 982 of the 8,137 men in the screening group had been placed in the unscreened control group. When the data was reanalysed, the death rate among the screened group was higher, said Peter Boyle from the European Institute of Oncology in Milan. [Lancet, 1998; 351:1563]

The Problem

PSA levels are only a guideline. About 75% of men with prostate cancer have correspondingly elevated levels of PSA (the cancer may be too small to increase PSA levels).

When PSA levels approach 10.0, there's about a 50% chance of finding prostate cancer. At that level the cancer will generally be confined to the prostate gland. Even when PSA levels are between 10.0 and 20.0, cancer is not always present. However, when it does exist at these PSA levels, cancer is more likely to have spread to the lymph nodes.

Also keep in mind that a slow-growing prostate cancer may not require any treatment, whereas a fast-growing cancer may need more aggressive treatment.

The Solution

In large part due to poor diet and the lack of exercise, prostate problems continue to be one of the most common problems in older men. It's also one of the reasons for the daily use of flaxseed.

Dr. Demark-Wahnefreid at Duke University recently reported that the compound called lignan in flaxseed slows prostate tumor growth by binding to the male hormone testosterone and removing it from the body. This action is important because the body normally converts testosterone to 5 dihydroxy-testosterone, which promotes prostate cancer. (Urology 01;58(1):47-52)  

Flaxseed has also been shown to have an anti-cancerous effect on breast cancer, colon cancer, and melanoma. You can get flaxseed from most health food stores, or by mail from Mountain Home Nutritionals at 800-888-1415.

In addition to flaxseed, the substance lycopene, found primarily in cooked tomatoes (tomato paste), watermelons, and pink grapefruit, can reduce PSA levels and slow prostate cancer. You can also get lycopene in supplement form. The suggested dosage is 15 milligrams twice daily. (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Pre 07;10:861-868)

Increased insulin levels also promote the conversion of testosterone, which explains why diabetics and people with diets high in sugar have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.

Another underutilized compound that is effective at treating a wide variety of prostate problems is the bioflavonoid quercetin. In one recent study, a dosage of 500 milligrams of quercetin twice daily proved very effective in a period of just two weeks. In 11 patients suffering from prostate pain, nine experienced complete relief of their symptoms and the other two reportedly improved. In nine other patients with non-bacterial prostate inflammation, six had complete resolution of their problem and one improved. In 19 patients who were experiencing chronic bacterial prostatitis, eight experienced complete remission and one showed significant improvement. Out of this entire group, regardless of the problem, there was a complete resolution of symptoms in 59 percent of the cases. For the cases with no infection, the success rate was 75 percent. (J Am Nutraceutical Assoc 99;2(2):36-39)

Onions are a good source of quercetin, but it is also available as an individual supplement. In most cases, quercetin seems to work better with vitamin C. If you have recurring or chronic prostate problems that don't seem to respond to traditional therapies, a two-week trial of quercetin could be a viable option.

Another even more potent substance to help stop the spread of cancer is modified citrus pectin.


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