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More sensitive kidney disease test reveals cancer risk link

Using a more sensitive test than is commonly used in the NHS, researchers have been able to show, for the first time, that even mild kidney disease is associated with an increased risk of developing and dying from cancer.

The new research, led by the University of Glasgow and published in the journal EClinicalMedicine, shows that the more sensitive cystatin C test was able to identify a heightened risk of developing and dying from cancer in people with chronic kidney disease.

Using data from the UK Biobank alongside the simple blood test, researchers were able to demonstrate that mild kidney disease is associated with a 4% increased risk of developing cancer and a 15% increased risk of dying from cancer. In people with more advanced kidney disease, researchers found a 19% increased risk in developing cancer and a 48% increased risk in dying from cancer.

This heightened risk of developing and dying from cancer was not identified when kidney function is estimated using serum creatinine – the test most commonly used in healthcare settings – to estimate a patient’s kidney function.

Chronic kidney disease, characterised by gradual loss of kidney function over time, is common, affecting around 10% of the population. Cancer is already known to be more common in people with kidney failure, especially in people requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant. Although kidney failure is relatively uncommon, mild kidney disease may be present in a third of the population, although it is usually asymptomatic, not routinely diagnosed and therefore monitored infrequently.

Chronic kidney disease is also associated with premature cardiovascular disease and mortality. Using cystatin C testing, researchers are already able to show that mild kidney disease is associated with 20–30% increase in risk of cardiovascular disease and early death, and this heightened risk is more pronounced in people with more advanced kidney disease.

www.glasgow.ac.uk

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