Cancer and Metastasis Reviews

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 391–411 | Cite as

Calcium role in human carcinogenesis: a comprehensive analysis and critical review of literature

  • Bernard Kadio
  • Sanni Yaya
  • Ajoy Basak
  • Koffi Djè
  • James Gomes
  • Christian Mesenge


The central role played by calcium ion in biological systems has generated an interest for its potential implication in human malignancies. Thus, lines of research, on possible association of calcium metabolism regulation with tumorigenesis, implying disruptions and/or alterations of known molecular pathways, have been extensively researched in the recent decades. This paper is a critical synthesis of these findings, based on a functional approach of the calcium signaling toolkit. It provides strong support that this ubiquitous divalent cation is involved in cancer initiation, promotion, and progression. Different pathways have been outlined, involving equally different molecular and cellular structures. However, if the association between calcium and cancer can be described as constant, it is not always linear. We have identified several influencing factors among which the most relevant are (i) the changes in local or tissular concentrations of free calcium and (ii) the histological and physiological types of tissue involved. Such versatility at the molecular level may probably account for the conflicting findings reported by the epidemiological literature on calcium dietary intake and the risk to develop certain cancers such as the prostatic or mammary neoplasms. However, it also fuels the hypothesis that behind each cancer, a specific calcium pathway can be evidenced. Identifying such molecular interactions is probably a promising approach for further understanding and treatment options for the disease.


Calcium signaling Cancer pathways Calcium homeostasis Cellular calcium concentration Tumorigenesis Cancer metastasis Apoptosis 



This research received no funding.

We would like to thank the long lignage of researchers involved in calcium research and its molecular intercations with cancer. In particular, our special thoughts go toward Prs Majid Khatib, Michael Berridge, and the late Lionel Jaffe for their pionneering work in the field.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard Kadio
    • 1
  • Sanni Yaya
    • 2
  • Ajoy Basak
    • 3
    • 4
  • Koffi Djè
    • 5
  • James Gomes
    • 6
  • Christian Mesenge
    • 7
  1. 1.Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health ScienceUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.School of International Development and Global Studies, Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Chronic Disease Ottawa Hospital Research InstituteUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  4. 4.Interdisciplinary School of Health SciencesUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  5. 5.Faculty of Médecine, Department of UrologyAllasane Ouattara UniversityBouakéIvory Coast
  6. 6.Interdisciplinary School of Health SciencesUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  7. 7.Université du Quebec en AbitibiQCCanada

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