Elevated Calcium May Presage Cancer Diagnosis

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Fergus Hamilton
University of Bristol, Centre for Academic Primary Care, School of Social and Community Medicine, Canyngne Hall, Bristol UK.

Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Hamilton: The findings of this study showed a stepwise increase in risk of cancer as calcium levels increase above the normal range, most notably in men. This relationship did occur in women, but was much less strong

Medical Research: What was most surprising about the results?

Dr. Hamilton: I think the gender disparity surprised us the most, and the degree of association at higher levels (Calcium >2.8 or so). The received wisdom is that calcium is a late sign of cancer, but this seems to suggest that hypercalcaemia can predate diagnosis of cancer in primary care.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Hamilton: I think clinicians and patients should interpret the results with caution (as with all new research!), but I think we would suggest that a raised calcium level in primary care, especially in men, may well represent a significant (>10% risk of cancer) in many cases, and GP’s should be aware of this risk and consider further investigation

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Hamilton: I think corroboration with WHY the calcium levels were done would be fascinating. Currently, we don’t have any idea WHY calcium levels were taken, which means it can be hard to appropriately estimate the risk to the patient in front of you. Also, further research into high normocalcaemia might be interesting. Our research suggested there may be an increase in risk here, and we will investigate accordingly.

The risk of cancer in primary care patients with hypercalcaemia: a cohort study using electronic records
British Journal of Cancer 111, 1410-1412 (23 September 2014) | doi:10.1038/bjc.2014.433
F Hamilton, R Carroll, W Hamilton and C Salisbury