Friday, October 17, 2014

Simple Blood Test Could Be Used as a Tool for Early Cancer Diagnosis

Hypercalcemia is the most common metabolic disorder associated with cancer, occurring in 10-20% of people with cancer.

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.

The research, published in the British Journal of Cancer, analyzed 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.

Dr. Fergus Hamilton, who led the research from the Centre of Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol, said: “All previous studies on hypercalcemia and cancer had been carried out with patients who had already been diagnosed with cancer – hypercalcemia 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.”

Analysis of the data found that in men, even mild hypercalcemia (2.6-2.8 moll/l) conferred a risk of cancer in one year of 11.5%. If the calcium was above 2.8 moll/l, the risk increased to 28%. In women, the risks were much less, with the corresponding figures being 4.1% and 8.7%.

In men, 81% of the cancer associated with hypercalcemia was caused by lung, prostate, myeloma, colorectal and other hematological cancers.

Dr. Hamilton added: “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 hypercalcemia. Men rarely get this condition, so their hypercalcemia is more likely to be due to cancer.”

This research was e-mailed to me by a patient. If you have some interesting research you would like me to review, please send it to me.

The serum calcium test is a routine blood test performed on all comprehensive metabolic profiles (CMP). Previously, it was viewed primarily as an indicator of parathyroid function. However, it is now a great screening tool for cancer, especially in men.

I recommend all my patients have a series of annual blood tests, including a CMP. Many health conditions will show on these simple, affordable tests long before the condition becomes a disease.

Obviously, in cancer cases, the earlier the detection, the simpler the treatment, and the better the prognosis. In metabolic syndrome, the condition is easily reversed with diet, exercise, and supplementation avoiding diabetes and heart disease.

This research is part of a five year study with a goal of transforming the diagnosis and prevention of cancer much like the metabolic syndrome model. It looks to use existing technology to prevent rather than treat disease.

Again, using metabolic syndrome model, the new guidelines for early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, still in the draft stage, include adding a glycohemoglobin A1c to routine laboratory testing rather than depending on the fasting glucose to reveal insulin resistance.

Please have yearly laboratory blood tests run by your primary care physician. They should include the CMP, serum lipids, CBC (complete blood count), TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), homocysteine, CRP (high sensitivity C-reactive protein) and vitamin D as a minimum. If you have a history of thyroid issues ask that the T3, T4, reverse T3, TPO, and thyroid auto-antibodies be added. If there is a history of cardiovascular disease, add the fibrinogen and L(p)a.

If your calcium is slightly elevated, don’t panic. Relate this recent research to your physician and ask what steps are recommended. Although the percentages, especially in men, are significant, they are still low. A high serum calcium is probably not due to cancer, it just might be.

Source: University of Bristol –September 26, 2014

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