Association between unexplained hypoalbuminaemia and new cancer diagnoses in UK primary care patients

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Abstract

Background.

The association between hypoalbuminaemia and a new diagnosis of cancer is as yet unknown.

Objective.

This study aimed to assess whether unexplained hypoalbuminaemia was associated with an increased risk of subsequent new cancer diagnosis within the next 12 months.

Methods.

A cohort study was performed using a large UK database of adult primary care patients. Patients with a serum albumin test, either low or normal, were followed for 12 months for a new diagnosis of non-skin cancer. Logistic regression was used to assess for relationships between hypoalbuminaemia and cancer diagnoses.

Results.

A total of 100 122 participants had at least one albumin test result. Of these, 5753 (5.75%) had a result <35g/l, of whom 1634 developed cancer within 12 months. Of the 94 116 patients with normal albumin values, 13 906 developed cancer. Hypoalbuminaemia was associated with an increased risk of subsequent cancer diagnosis within 12 months (odds ratio [OR]: 2.29; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.15–2.43). This association was smaller in magnitude after controlling for other conditions known to affect albumin levels (OR: 1.29; 95% CI: 1.12–1.49).

Conclusions.

Low albumin levels were associated with an increased risk of cancer. This finding needs to be confirmed in other primary care populations.

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