PSA Testing's Next Level

Prostate specific antigen velocity risk test provides more insight

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) There has been a lot of controversy in the medical profession over using PSA (prostate specific antigen) level tests for prostate cancer screening. A new test may actually be more accurate than the traditional method.

While using PSA by itself has not been reliable, there has been a great need for a better screening test. Scientists have refined the test to look not at the PSA level alone, but rather how fast the PSA level is changing.

"Ask your doctor about PSA Velocity Risk."

Researchers from NYU's Langone Medical Center and the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine showed that their new test, PSA Velocity risk (PSAV risk) is more effective to screen patients for prostate cancer. Researchers defined high risk to be an increase in levels of more than 0.4 ng/ml/year.

Expensive, controversial, and not considered very accurate in predicting prostate cancer by themselves, PSA levels are routinely evaluated in men over 50 with a simple blood test. Looking at the PSA readings in context with past levels along with information about the patient provides a better guess about prostate cancer risk.

“A persistently rising PSA is a harbinger for life-threatening prostate cancer,” said the study’s senior author, William Catalona, M.D., professor of Urology at Northwestern University.

“Our study findings show looking at how much PSA changes over time helps distinguish which cancers are aggressive more so than a single PSA value.”

The study, published online in the British Journal of Urology International, analyzed data from 18,214 men to strengthen the mathematical model. By incorporating more information into the risk model, researchers hope to eventually lower unnecessary biopsies in men with healthy prostates.

In 40 percent of patients, PSAV risk over 0.4 ng/ml/year accurately predicted the development of cancer. On the other hand, four percent of patients defined as high risk did not develop cancer.

According to researchers, the test does represent a sizeable improvement over PSA level alone.

No financial relationships were disclosed by either research institution.

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Review Date: 
February 6, 2012
Last Updated:
February 7, 2012