Senior doctor says cyclists should tell GP about their bike-riding to avoid unnecessary prostate cancer tests

Raised levels of glycoprotein PSA a warning sign of disease, but can also be caused by regular cycling

by Simon_MacMichael   March 1, 2012  

Tommy Walsh and David Schneider, Prostate Cancer Charity Tour Ride London 2010 (© Simon MacMichael)

A senior doctor has said that GPs should check whether male patients are keen cyclists before sending them for potentially unnecessary – not to mention uncomfortable – tests to ascertain whether they may have prostate cancer, reports The Daily Telegraph.

Consultant urologist Chris Eden from the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford says that cycling can temporarily raise levels of the glycoprotein prostate-specific antigen (PSA), potentially leading doctors to mistakenly recommend that the patient undergo a biopsy to test for prostate cancer, which may be indicated by excessive levels of PSA.

"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,” explained Mr Eden, “all because their cycling produced a false positive." he said.

He added that the heightened levels of the glycoprotein among bike riders did not in itself give rise to an increased risk of contracting prostate cancer.

"Cycling does raise PSA levels but only temporarily. 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," he said.

The test measures how much PSA there is in the blood. All men will have a small amount present, but production of PSA by prostate cancer cells can lead to elevated levels of it, with the test helping doctors determine whether further investigation is needed.

The Daily Telegraph said that 36,000 men, mainly aged 50 and over, are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the UK, adding that while the charity Cancer Research has identified an increased incidence of the condition over the past two decades, that has not translated into higher mortality rates, itself in part a result of the PSA test.

"The irony here is that physical exercise such as cycling is actually protective against prostate cancer since it`s a way to avoid weight gain and is generally a way to keep healthy,” said Mr Eden, who believes that all men aged 40 and over should be aware of their PSA level.

“It`s important that cyclists don`t get scared off from enjoying their hobby,” he added. “I think any man who is a regular cyclist and who needs a PSA test should tell their doctor about their hobby.

“It`s surprising how many doctors may not know about the association and this could avoid unpleasant further investigation. Mentioning you regularly use your bike could save on a lot of discomfort."

The Prostate Cancer Charity includes a variety of cycling events within its fundraising portfolio and has also been closely involved with the Tour of Britain in recent years, including giving its name to the Prostate Cancer Charity Tour Rides series of sportives.


11 user comments

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Currently awaiting my PAS result and I cycles to the doctors for the to take my blood sample. Sad

posted by malmesburyclarioncc [26 posts]
1st March 2012 - 13:39


Sorry about the grammar above!

posted by malmesburyclarioncc [26 posts]
1st March 2012 - 13:41


malmesburyclarioncc wrote:
Currently awaiting my PAS result and I cycles to the doctors for the to take my blood sample. Sad

Hope all goes well, and as the consultant in the article says, it's definitely worth telling your doctor that you are a cyclist, as well as getting tested after a few days off the bike so that the results don't get skewed.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [9521 posts]
1st March 2012 - 14:28


A long story which can be summarised as: "No need for the finger doctor, I ride a bike!"

posted by Ush [539 posts]
1st March 2012 - 18:50


malmesburyclarioncc wrote:
Currently awaiting my PAS result and I cycles to the doctors for the to take my blood sample. Sad

Hi, don't worry too much about it, I'm a recovering prostate cancer patient of three years and my last three PSA results are reducing year on year and I rode my bike to all blood test appointments though I did know there was a chance they would be elevated. Maybe it's an individual thing. hope you fare well anyway, good luck.


antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1108 posts]
1st March 2012 - 23:07


Result, 3.8. This is good if u are over 60 not so good if you are 59 apparently. I was 60 in January! Doc still wants me to see a specialist urologist, I can feel that finger as I type. Crying still, at least it gives me a good excuse to stop regularly on rides.

posted by malmesburyclarioncc [26 posts]
2nd March 2012 - 9:57


Oh yes, it gives me a good Target for the year. I intend completing one of the prostate cancer charity rides that go alongside the Tour of Britain.

posted by malmesburyclarioncc [26 posts]
2nd March 2012 - 10:00


I came across this a year or so ago whist trying to get the GP to look into a possible bone density problem*. Had some blod tests - PSA of somewhere around 5 IIRC. Did a bit of online research and anything that aggravates the prostate (cycling, sex - dunno about running) - needs to be avoided for a few days or so before testing. Tests in successive months gave a reduced PSA of around 2-2.2, I think. I got a visitation from Mrs Marigold anyway (really isn't a big deal or uncomfortable) - probably just as well, turns out I have a slightly enlarged prostate. No real symptoms otherwise, tho' mebbe getting up in the night to pee more frequently after a night on the pop. (I've 48, btw.)

3.8 doesn't actually sound too bad, so *please* don't lose any sleep over it. I must admit until I read about the cycling link and got the next retest I was cr*pping myself Sad The important thing is actually rate of change (upwards) of PSA, since that's a better indicator of anything more serious (AFAIA - IANAD !)

(*looks like I'll have to pay for a DEXA scan myself since I'm not in an 'at risk' group)

posted by JonD [350 posts]
2nd March 2012 - 16:30


TWO DAYS WITHOUT RIDING A BICYCLE? Is this even possible Wink

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [295 posts]
2nd March 2012 - 17:56


An elevated PSA is not necessarily a certainty of prostate cancer.

Mine, at age 49, was 10.3 and peaked at about 11.1.

Various 'interesting' investigations and biopsies twice either missed cancerous cells or none present. BPH was the conclusion and green light laser srgery followed.

Let the experts advise you but just don't ignore the symptoms.

Oh, the surgery was a good excuse for a new bike Big Grin

posted by DAG on a bike [78 posts]
2nd March 2012 - 21:15


I know you are not supposed to cycle before a blood test for psa, but didnt realise how much it can effect the reading. I went for a test less than 24 hours after a 94km cycle. Needless to say my psa rose from a usual 3.9 to 6.1. So no cycling for 5 days (or orgasms !!, though it was harder not to cycle ) then another test and it was down to 4.3. My specialist told me to come back in 12 months. So thats an increase of over 40% due to cycling.

posted by Bernee [1 posts]
10th March 2015 - 10:36