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Hypercalcemia of malignancy: Mechanisms

Mara J Horwitz, MD
Section Editor
Clifford J Rosen, MD
Deputy Editor
Jean E Mulder, MD


Hypercalcemia is relatively common in patients with cancer, occurring in approximately 20 to 30 percent of cases [1]. It is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in the inpatient setting. It occurs in patients with both solid tumors and hematologic malignancies. The most common cancers associated with hypercalcemia are breast and lung cancer and multiple myeloma. Malignancy is often evident clinically by the time it causes hypercalcemia, and patients with hypercalcemia of malignancy often have a poor prognosis. The mechanisms of hypercalcemia will be reviewed here. The clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment of hypercalcemia are reviewed in detail separately.

(See "Clinical manifestations of hypercalcemia".)

(See "Diagnostic approach to hypercalcemia".)

(See "Treatment of hypercalcemia".)


There are three major mechanisms by which hypercalcemia of malignancy can occur (table 1) [1-3]:

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 22, 2016.
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