ESA Use in Dialysis Patients May Increase Cancer Risk

DialysisTechTraining.com -

VANCOUVER, B.C. – A group of researchers reported the use of erythropoiesis stimulating agents (ESAs) in dialysis patients may increase their risk of cancer diagnosis. The report was delivered at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Nephrology.

Patient receiving dialysis in arm

Arm of patient receiving dialysis.
Photo by Anna Frodesiak

ESAs are agents that stimulate red blood cell production. They are similar to the naturally occurring protein erythropoietin. The typical dialysis patient may lose 5-7 mg of iron during each dialysis treatment. This is the primary contributor to their anemia. As a result, dialysis patients with end stage renal disease (ESRD) are often given ESAs and iron to achieve optimal hemoglobin levels in an effort to battle anemia.

The Canadian study conducted by the Rosemont Hospital Research Center in Montreal found a connection between dialysis patients who were exposed to ESAs and cancer. They studied 4,574 patients who began chronic dialysis any time between January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2007. The study excluded patients with previous cancer diagnoses.

The investigators identified 319 cases of cancer to the 3,895 patients used in the control group. Findings showed that patients exposed to ESAs had a 77% higher chance of cancer diagnosis than patients without ESA exposure.

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