High calcium levels can indicate cancer: Study

High levels of calcium in blood can be an indicator of cancer especially in men, says study. 

Last Updated: Sep 26, 2014, 16:34 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau

London: High levels of calcium in blood can be an indicator of cancer especially in men, says study.

The condition known as hypercalcaemia is the most common metabolic disorder associated with cancer, occurring in 10 to 20 per cent of people with cancer, researchers said.

A simple blood test is enough to identify people with hypercalcaemia, prompting doctors to investigate further.

While its connection to cancer is well known, this study has, for the first time, shown that often it can predate the diagnosis of cancer in primary care.

“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,” said Fergus Hamilton, who led the research from University of Bristol in Britain.

For the study, the researchers analysed the electronic records of 54,000 patients who had elevated levels of calcium and looked at how many of them went on to receive a cancer diagnosis.

In men, even mild hypercalcaemia conferred a risk of cancer in one year of 11.5 percent.

If the calcium was above limits, the risk increased to 28 percent.

In women, the risks were much less, with the corresponding figures being 4.1 percent and 8.7 percent.

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

In women, cancer was much less common.

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, Hamilton added.

The study appeared in the British Journal of Cancer.

(With Agency Inputs)