Hypercalcemia may indicate cancer

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According to a new study published in the British Journal of Cancer, hypercalcemia in men was linked with an increased risk for developing cancer within 1 year of detecting elevated blood levels of calcium.


For the study, researchers from the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol in Bristol, United Kingdom, sought to determine whether elevated levels of calcium in the blood could be utilized as an early screening method for the diagnosis of cancer.


The researchers identified 54,000 patients in an electronic database and analyzed their medical records to look for patients with a history of hypercalcemia that were later diagnosed with cancer. They found that men with a calcium level of 2.6 to 2.8 mmol/L (normal calcium level is 2.1 to 2.5 mmol/L) had an 11.5% increased risk of a cancer diagnosis within 1 year of identifying the elevated calcium level. Men with a calcium level greater than 2.8 mmol/L had a 28% increased risk.


Women had an increased risk for a cancer diagnosis as well, but the effect was smaller than men. Furthermore, hypercalcemiia was associated with bowel, breast, leukemia, lung, myeloma, and prostate cancer.

Hypercalcemia may indicate cancer
Hypercalcemia in men was linked with an increased risk for developing cancer.

Calcium in the blood could provide an early warning of certain cancers, especially in men, research has shown. Even slightly raised blood levels of calcium in men was associated with an increased risk of cancer diagnosis within one year.

The discovery, reported in the British Journal of Cancer, raises the prospect of a simple blood test to aid the early detection of cancer in high risk patients. Hypercalcaemia - a higher than normal calcium reading - was associated with a wide range of cancers, chiefly lung, prostate, breast, bowel, and those affecting the blood such as leukaemia and myeloma.

While the condition was already known to occur in up to a fifth of cancer patients, this is the first time it has been shown to pre-date diagnosis.

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