PSA: secret men’s business

She may be the woman behind, but that didn’t stop Nicola from bringing an issue to my attention last Friday night that might be of particular interest to male cyclists everywhere…

Fellas, the occasional instance of ‘Numb Nuts’ or ‘SAS’ (aka Sore Arse Syndrome) is one thing. But when your love for cycling leads to potentially-serious prostate problems, well, that ups the physical ante to a whole new level. This is precisely what many male cyclists are faced with every year. And with more and more middle-aged blokes joining the bunch all the time, chances are the number affected will only increase.

But here’s the thing. Based on the recent experiences of a close friend of Nicola’s, and her subsequent research as a result, she uncovered a seemingly little-known truth: many male cyclists are unnecessarily sent for painful prostate biopsies each year, and worry themselves sick for the next week or so afterwards, due to a simple oversight either on their part, or that of their doctor.

According to an article published on this very issue earlier in 2012 by

Many doctors don’t realise that strenuous pedalling raises levels of a protein called PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen), which is also a key indicator of possible prostate cancer.”

What this means is that if you go in for a regulation blood test on, say, Monday after a tough weekend’s riding, it’s possible your PSA will be elevated to the type of levels that get white-coated laboratory pathologists more excited than a Frenchman winning on Bastille Day. This may result in you being sent off for further tests (and, no, I don’t just mean the rubber glove treatment). But if you took exactly the same test after a period off the bike, you may find your PSA levels are actually boringly normal.


The article in sought out an expert on the matter, Consultant Urologist Chris Eden, of the Royal Surrey County Hospital. Eden says GPs should routinely ask men with high PSA if they’re keen cyclists. (My thinking is perhaps we male cyclists should also routinely tell our doctors – in case they forget to ask).

“Unfortunately some doctors may be unaware that cycling can spuriously raise a man`s PSA levels and so refer their patient for further and unnecessary treatment. All because their cycling produced a false positive,” Eden said.

He also pointed out that raised PSA levels caused by cycling do not necessarily put a rider at any greater risk of cancer. Good news, indeed.

“Cycling does raise PSA levels but only temporarily,” he said. “So the way to distinguish whether cycling has caused a rise in levels is to refrain from getting on a bike for 48 hours and then having a second PSA test. The levels will have dropped if cycling was responsible for the rise.”

Now, I’m no doctor and I’m not for a second suggesting you shouldn’t go straight to your GP if you have any concerns whatsoever. But as Nicola’s friend experienced, it’s good to be aware that this simple oversight sometimes happens, just in case your GP isn’t. I’m certainly glad I now know about it.

Cyclist or not, the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia recommends that all men aged 50 or over with no family history of prostate cancer, and all men aged 40 with a family history, should seek voluntary annual checks from their GP. Do you?

If you’re interested, this is the link to the full article.

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