PSA test for prostate cancer

Family history and other concerns about cancer

What causes prostate cancer is not known, but the chance of getting the disease increases as men get older, and having relatives (father, grandfather, uncle, brother) who have had prostate cancer increases the likelihood. It should be noted that other prostate problems associated with urinary symptoms, for which people also have treatment, would not place a family member at higher risk of prostate cancer. 

Men of black African and black Caribbean descent are more likely to develop prostate cancer than other ethnic groups. Prostate cancer is also more common in the West, suggesting a possible link with western lifestyle factors, such as diet. (see the prostate cancer section for more about causes). 

Men have PSA tests for many reasons, but some we talked to had asked their GPs for a PSA test mainly because of a history of prostate cancer in the family. Two relatively young men without urinary symptoms wanted a test just to make sure they didn't have an early cancer.

Other men, also symptom free, had asked their GPs for PSA tests because of a family history of prostate cancer. But further investigations found they had the disease.

One man found that he was passing urine more frequently than previously, and since his father had had prostate cancer he asked for a PSA test as part of his private medical care. Two tests have been 'normal'. He plans to have another one soon.

Some men had specific concerns about cancer even though there wasn't a family history of the disease. One young man, for example, began to worry about prostate cancer when his father-in-law was diagnosed. 

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Another man had had testicular cancer in the past and wondered if this made him more susceptible to other cancers. He had repeated PSA tests and was eventually diagnosed with prostate cancer.

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There is no evidence that testicular cancer leads to prostate cancer, but another man was also worried about prostate cancer because he had been born with an undescended testicle and had been told that this meant he had a slightly higher risk of developing testicular cancer (also see testicular cancer section). 

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(For more discussion about whether or not to have a PSA test see 'The pros and cons of a national screening programme for prostate cancer'.) 

Last reviewed May 2016.
Last updated 
May 2016.

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