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Serum lipoprotein profile in patients with cancer. A comparison with non-cancer subjects


The association of cancer with low serum total cholesterol is well established. Less clear is the relationship of cancer with the cholesterol distribution among the different lipoprotein classes. Conflicting results have been reported on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and serum triglyceride levels in different types of tumor. Total serum cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, and serum triglycerides were analyzed in 530 patients with newly diagnosed cancer (97 with hematological malignancies, 92 with tumor of the lung, 108 of the upper digestive system, 103 of colon, 32 of breast, and 98 of the genitourinary system) and in 415 non-cancer subjects. Anthropometric (body mass index) and biochemical (serum albumin) indices of nutritional status were also determined in all subjects. Total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, serum albumin, and body mass index were significantly lower in cancer than in non cancer-subjects. The lowest values of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol were recorded in patients with hematological malignancies and the highest in patients with breast tumor. All the cancer groups, with the exception of women with breast cancer, showed significantly lower total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol than age- and sex-matched non-cancer subjects. Multiple regression analysis with low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, and triglycerides as dependent variables and sex, age, body mass index, albumin, and cancer (dummy variable) as independent variables, showed that cancer was independently associated with low levels of low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol and with high values of serum triglycerides. Total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, serum triglycerides, body mass index and serum albumin were significantly lower in patients with metastatic than in patients with non-metastatic solid tumor. The significant difference in low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol and serum triglycerides between patients with metastatic and non-metastatic cancer was lost when lipoprotein cholesterol and serum triglyceride levels were adjusted for nutritional variables. The lipid profile in cancer patients is characterized by low low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, low high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol and relatively high serum triglycerides. The abnormality is a common feature of both hematological and solid tumors and is not entirely explained by poor nutrition.

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Correspondence to D. Sommariva.

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Fiorenza, A.M., Branchi, A. & Sommariva, D. Serum lipoprotein profile in patients with cancer. A comparison with non-cancer subjects. Int J Clin Lab Res 30, 141–145 (2000).

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Key words

  • Cancer
  • Cholesterol
  • Low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol
  • High-density lipoprotein-cholesterol
  • Serum triglycerides
  • Nutritional status