Analysis of serum copper and zinc concentrations in cancer patients

  • Miłosława Zowczak
  • Maria Iskra
  • Lech Torliński
  • Szczepan Cofta


Several studies have shown that plasma copper concentrations are increased in various carcinomas. Zinc acts as a cellular growth protector, including growth of neoplastic cells, and its deficiency was demonstrated to be involved in several stages of malignant transformation. However, the usefulness of the serum zinc and copper determinations in cancer prevention, detection, monitoring treatment, and prognosis requires further investigations. The aim of the present study was to compare the serum copper and zinc levels in patients with cancer of the lung (PC), breast (BC), gastrointestinal tract (GIC), and gynecological (GYNC) malignancy with progress of the disease. The results of the study have shown a significant increase in the mean total serum Cu levels and the serum Cu/Zn ratio in all patient groups with cancer compared to a control group. Increased mean serum concentrations and Cu/Zn ratios were found in the whole group (ALLC), and for the GIC and GYNC groups with local as well as metastasized (Meta) disease in comparison with the control group. The mean serum concentrations of Zn were decreased only in metastasized ALLC and GYNC groups.

Index Entries

Copper zinc serum cancer oncogenesis breast lung gastrointestinal gynecological 


  1. 1.
    J. B. Henry, Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods, 19th ed., WB Saunders, Philadelphia (1996).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    M. Hilewicz-Grabska and A. Zgirski, Structure, properties and functions of mammals and avians ceruloplasmins, in Białka komórek prawidłowych i patologicznych ŁTN. Łódż, Vol. 118, pp. 223–240 (1994) (in Polish).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    S. R. Marklund, N. G. Westman, E. Lundgren, and G. Ross, Copper and zinc containing superoxide-dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase in normal and neoplastic human cell lines and normal tissue, Cancer Res. 42, 1955–1961 (1982).PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    P. A. Cerutti, Oxidant stress and carcinogenesis, Eur. J. Clin. Invest. 21, 1–5 (1991).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    M. C. Linder and M. Hazegh-Azam, Copper biochemistry and molecular biology, Am. J Clin. Nutr. 63, 797S-811S (1996).PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    J. T. Dabek, M. Hyvönen Dabek, M. Härkönen, and H. Adlercreutz, Evidence for increased non-ceruloplasmin copper in early-stage human breast cancer serum, Nutr. Cancer. 17, 195–201 (1992).PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    A. Chan, F. Wong, and M. Arumanayagam, Serum ultrafiltrable copper, total copper and ceruloplasmin concentrations in gynaecological carcinomas, Ann. Clin. Biochem. 30, 545–549 (1993).PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    R. A. DiSilvestro, J. K. Greenson, and Z. Liao, Effects of low copper intake on dimethylhydrazine-induced colon cancer in rats, Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. Med. 20, 94–97 (1992).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    L. Y. Fong, K. M. Lau, K. Huebner, and P. N. Magee, Induction of esophageal tumors in zinc-deficient rats by single low doses of N-nitrosomethylbenzylamine (NMBA): analysis of cell proliferation, and mutations in H-ras and p53 genes, Carcinogenesis 18, 1477–1484 (1997).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    A. S. Prasad, Zinc in human health: an update, J Trace Elements Exp. Med. 11, 63–87 (1998).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    M. Schwartz, Role of trace elements in cancer, Cancer Res. 35, 3481–3487 (1975).PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    G. C. Sturniolo, V. Di Leo, M. Barollo, W. Fries, E. Mazzon, A. Ferronato, et al., The many functions of zinc in inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, J. Trace Elements Exp. Med. 13, 33–39 (2000).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    P. M. Newberne, T. F. Schrager, and S. Broitman, Esophageal carcinogenesis in the rat: zinc deficiency and alcohol effects on tumor induction, Pathobiology 65, 39–45 (1997).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    J. Timar, E. Raso, S. Paku, and L. Kopper, Oral administration of a trace element preparation and zinc inhibit liver metastasis of 3LL-HH murine tumor cells, Int. J. Mol. Med. 2, 105–108 (1998).PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    A. Gupta, V. Shukla, M. Vaidya, S. Roy, and A. Gupta, Serum and tissue trace elements in colorectal cancer, J. Surg. Oncol. 52, 172–175 (1993).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    L. M. Gaetke, C. J. McClain, R. T. Talwalkar, and S. I. Shedlofsky, Effects of endotoxin on zinc metabolism in human volunteers, Am. J. Physiol. 272, E952-E956 (1997).PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    J. L. Poo, R. R. Romero, J. A. Robles, A. C. Montemayor, F. Isoard, A. Estanes et al., Diagnostic value of the copper/zinc ratio in digestive cancer: a case control study, Arch. Med. Res. 28, 259–263 (1997).PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    N. Sattar, H. R. Scott, D. C. McMillan, D. Talwar, D. S. Oreilly, and G. S. Fell, Acutephase reactants and plasma trace element concentrations in non-small cell lung cancer patients and controls, Nutr. Cancer 288, 308–312 (1997).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    S. M. Vaidya and P. L. Kamalakar, Copper and ceruloplasmin levels in serum of women with breast cancer, Indian J. Med. Sci. 52, 184–187 (1998).PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    C. Köksoy, G. O. Kavas, E. Akçil, P. A. Kocatürk, S. Kara, and C. Ozarslan, Trace elements and superoxide dismutase in benign and malignant breast diseases, Breast Cancer Res. Treat. 45, 1–6 (1997).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    M. R. Ros-Bullón, P. Sánchez-Pedreño and J. H. Martínez-Liarte, Serum zinc levels are increased in melanoma patients, Melanoma Res. 8, 273–277 (1998).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc. 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miłosława Zowczak
    • 1
  • Maria Iskra
    • 1
  • Lech Torliński
    • 1
  • Szczepan Cofta
    • 2
  1. 1.Clinical BiochemistryKarol Marcinkowski University of Medical SciencesPoznańPoland
  2. 2.Department of PneumonologyKarol Marcinkowski University of Medical SciencesPoznańPoland

Personalised recommendations