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Study Links Serum Calcium, Prostate Cancer Death
Date:9/3/2008

High, but still normal, levels triple risk of aggressive disease

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Men whose serum calcium levels fall within the high end of the normal range are three times more likely to develop fatal prostate cancer, a new report shows.

The results suggest the possibility of a new biomarker for aggressive prostate cancer, the researchers said. But one expert cautioned against reading too much into the study, given the relatively small number of individuals involved.

Gary Schwartz, of Wake Forest University Health Sciences in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Halcyon Skinner, of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and NHANES Epidemiologic Follow-up Study to determine the risk of prostate cancer among men with relatively high, but still normal, blood serum calcium readings.

Participants represented a random cross-section of American households, and they were first examined in the early 1970s. At that time, blood samples were drawn, and serum calcium levels obtained. The participants were then monitored for an average of almost 10 years. Skinner and Schwartz asked, in this population, was there any correlation between baseline serum calcium and risk of prostate cancer later in life?

"It would be the equivalent of a high school guidance counselor looking at SAT scores from students 20 years ago to see how [the scores] predict academic or business success," Schwartz explained.

In the study, 2,814 men between the ages of 24 and 77 at the time of their initial blood draw were included in the analysis, yielding 85 total cases and 25 fatal cases of prostate cancer over 46,188 person-years of follow-up.

When these cases were segregated according to the individuals' serum calcium levels, the authors found that those whose serum calcium readings during the initial blood draw fell at the highest-third
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