As you can imagine, I was a bit surprised when my doctor told me to stay off the bicycle for five days.
Bicycling keeps my resting heart rate below 60, it has beat my family’s history of high blood pressure, and it makes me happy and sane.
The problem was that my prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests have been running a little “hot” lately. They’ve been creeping up, and my general practitioner recommended I see a urologist to follow up. When that specialist learned that I ride 75 to 100 miles a week, he ordered me off the bike for at least 5 days until I get another blood test for PSA.
PSA and cycling
It turns out that bicycling is just one activity that may raise PSA results. Looking back, my past four tests had risen along with my mileage. Coincidence? Hell, I even rode my bicycle to the clinic for my last PSA test. Smooth move. Nobody told me.
More than 200,000 men a year are diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. The survival rate is very high if it’s caught early. There’s also a big debate going on about how to treat it. It’s one of those cases where the cure might be worse than the disease sometimes.
Anyway, my PSA rose from 2.7 to 4.2 in the past four years, so it was time to go to the urologist, who ordered another test, sans bicycle.
My doc admitted that the PSA tests are not that reliable. There are lots of other things that cause PSAs to rise. One might be bicycle riding, as the cycling is said to put pressure on the prostate which can elevate the results.
I did some checking on my own, after my blood test unfortunately, and found other things that might raise the PSA: sexual intercourse, alcohol, coffee, constipation. I wonder if sitting around on my ass writing a blog would cause my PSA to spike?
Of course, for every study there is a counter study. Some German researchers measured PSA in men who had just ridden 13 miles and didn’t notice it had any affect on PSA.
Let’s be clear. No one is saying that bicycling causes prostate cancer, but it might give false readings for tests.
So I finished my time off the bike — it worked out to 7 days — and now I’m waiting for the latest PSA results. Because of family obligations and crappy weather, I probably wouldn’t haven’t gotten in that much riding anyway. I just hope I didn’t miss a week’s worth of riding for nothing.
(Update: Got a call from the doctor this morning (just took the test yesterday so that’s a quick turn-around). Abstaining from bicycling for a week didn’t affect my PSA test results one iota. The next step is a biopsy, which means, among other things, more time off the bike.)
Some prostate cancer links:
“Playing the Odds,” Bloomberg Markets (current methods of diagnosing and treating prostate cancer)
Prostate Cancer-Active Surveillance (it espouses a less aggressive treatment program)
Bicycle does not raise PSA (that German study says bicycling — 13-mile ride — doesn’t affect test)
Lab Tests Online (bicycling “may” cause a temporary rise in PSA)