Does salmon calcitonin cause cancer? A review and meta-analysis

G. Wells, J. Chernoff, J. P. Gilligan, D. S. Krause

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Recently an association between the use of calcitonin and cancer has been postulated. We reviewed the biological rationale and performed an additional analysis of historical data with respect to the possibility. An association cannot be excluded, but the relationship is weak and causality is unlikely. The purpose of the present study is to review the strength of association and likelihood of a causal relationship between use of calcitonin and cancer. We reviewed the evidence for this association, including the molecular signaling mechanisms of calcitonin, preclinical data, an “experiment of nature,” and the results of a previous meta-analysis which showed a weak association. We performed an additional meta-analysis to incorporate the data from a novel investigational oral formulation of salmon calcitonin. Review of the literature did not identify a cellular signaling mechanism of action which might account for a causal relationship or toxicologic or postmarketing data to support the thesis. Additional clinical results incorporated into previous meta-analyses weakened but did not completely negate the possibility of association. A causal association between calcitonin use and malignancy is unlikely, as there is little biological plausibility. The preponderance of nonclinical and clinical evidence also does not favor a causal relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-19
Number of pages7
JournalOsteoporosis International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Animals
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents/adverse effects
  • Calcitonin/adverse effects
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical/methods
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms/chemically induced
  • Product Surveillance, Postmarketing


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