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Serum concentrations of Cu, Se, Fe and Zn in patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer


Pancreatic cancer is the eighth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the developed world and has one of the worst prognoses of any malignancy with 98% succumbing to their disease within 5 years. Little is known about the etiology of the disease despite significant new insights into the mutation signatures common to this disease. The antioxidants, including vitamins C, E, Se, Zn might prevent pancreatic cancer. In the current study we have examined the levels of Cu, Fe, Zn and Se in a moderately sized pancreatic cancer population and compared it to a healthy age-matched population.

Material and methods

A total of 48 pancreatic cancer patients and 48 aged-matched healthy controls were enrolled in the study after providing informed consent. The patients with pancreatic cancer were enrolled to the study from the Hospital of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration in Szczecin, Poland. For each pancreatic cancer patient included in this study an unaffected individual registered in International Hereditary Cancer Center, Pomeranian Medical University of Szczecin, was used as a control.

Each person enrolled in the study donated ~10 ml EDTA blood for sufficient serum to be isolated and examined for the elements Cu, Se, Fe and Zn.The level of Cu, Fe, Se, and Zn, in the serum was determined by mass spectrometry Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (Elan DRC-e, PerkinElmer).


Table 1 Association between Se serum concentration and risk of pancreatic cancer
Table 2 Association between Cu serum concentration and risk of pancreatic cancer
Table 3 Association between Fe serum concentration and risk of pancreatic cancer
Table 4 Association between Zn serum concentration and risk of pancreatic cancer
Table 5 Ratio Cu/Se
Table 6 Ratio Zn/Se
Table 7 Ratio Fe/Se


  1. 1.

    There is a very strong correlation between the level of selenium, copper in serum and the risk of pancreatic cancers in the Polish population.

  2. 2.

    The Se, Cu level in serum and especially ratio Cu/Se may be a useful diagnostic tool of pancreatic cancer.

  3. 3.

    Further investigations are needed to determine if Cu/Se ratio can be used in:

    1. a.

      differential diagnosis of pancreatic tumor (PT),

    2. b.

      identification of causative factors of PT,

    3. c.

      identification of prognostic factor of PC.

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Correspondence to Marcin Lener.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Lener, M., Wiechowska-Kozlowska, A., Scott, R.J. et al. Serum concentrations of Cu, Se, Fe and Zn in patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Hered Cancer Clin Pract 13, A14 (2015).

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  • Selenium
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Inductively Couple Plasma Mass Spectrometry
  • Pancreatic Tumor
  • Inductively Couple Plasma