Research published in a recent issue of the British Journal of Cancer concluded that high levels of calcium (hypercalcaemia) in blood could be used by practitioners as early indications of certain types of cancer and encourage other diagnostic tests. Hypercalcemia occurs in 10 to 20 percent of people with cancer. Researchers said “All previous studies of 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.”
In a sample of 54,000 patients the analysis of data showed that in men, even mild hypercalcaemia (2.6-2.8 mmol 1-1 ) showed a risk in one year of 11.5 percent. when calcium was above 2.8 mmol 1-1. the risk increased to 28 percent. In women the risks were much lest, being 4.1 and 8.7 respectively. In relation to the gender difference, the researchers said “…we think it might be because women are more likely to have hyperparathyroidism, another cause of hypercalcaemia. Men rarely get this condition, so that hypercalcaemia is more likely to be due to cancer.”
Researchers found that in men, 81 percent of the cancer associated with hypercalcaemia was caused by lung, prostate, myeloma, colorectal, and other haematological cancer. Further research is ongoing.