Calcium Levels Can Be Used As an Early Indicator of Cancer, Study


Universities of Bristol and Exeter have found a novel indicator of cancer. The researchers said that high levels of calcium in blood, a condition known as hypercalcaemia, can be used as an early indicator of certain types of cancer.

Hypercalcaemia is the most common metabolic disorder associated with cancer that occurs in 10 to 20 percent of the patients.

This is the first study to highlight the importance of Hypercalcaemia in the diagnosis of cancer. A simple blood test could identify patients with hypercalcaemia that can prompt doctors to investigate further.

"All previous studies on hypercalcaemia and cancer had been carried out with patients who had already been diagnosed with cancer - hypercalcaemia was seen as a late effect of the cancer. We wanted to look at the issue from a different perspective and find out if high calcium levels in blood could be used as an early indicator of cancer and therefore in the diagnosis of cancer," Dr Fergus Hamilton, who led the research from the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol, said in a statement.

For the study, the researchers observed 54,000 patients who had high levels of calcium to determine how many of them actually carried the risk of developing cancer.

The researchers found that even mild hypercalcaemia (2.6-2.8 mmol l-1) was associated with 11.5 percent cancer risk. If the calcium level was above 2.8 mmol l-1, the risk was 28 percent. In women, the risks appeared to be less severe, with figures being 4.1 percent and 8.7 percent respectively.

In men, 81 percent of the cancer related with hypercalcaemia was caused by lung, prostate, myeloma, colorectal and other haematological cancers.

"We were surprised by the gender difference. There are a number of possible explanations for this but we think it might be because women are much more likely to have hyperparathyroidism, another cause of hypercalcaemia. Men rarely get this condition, so their hypercalcaemia is more likely to be due to cancer," Hamilton said.

The finding is published in the British Journal of Cancer.

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