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Iron deficiency in patients with cancer: a prospective cross-sectional study


Background Despite the deleterious consequences of iron deficiency (ID) in patients with cancer, underdiagnosis is frequent. The CARENFER study aimed to assess the prevalence of ID using both serum ferritin concentration and transferrin coefficient saturation (iron-saturation of transferrin, TSAT) index, as well as ID anaemia in patients with cancer.

Methods This prospective cross-sectional study was conducted in 15 oncology units in France in 2019. All patients present in the medical unit during the 2-week study period, regardless of the type of tumour (solid or haematological) and treatment, were eligible. Serum ferritin concentration, TSAT index and haemoglobin level were determined. ID and ID-associated anaemia were defined according to European Society of Medical Oncology 2018 Guidelines: ID was defined either as ferritin <100 µg/L (absolute ID) or as ferritin ≥100 µg/L and TSAT <20% (functional ID).

Results A total of 1221 patients with different types of solid malignant tumours were analysed: median age 64 years; 89.4% under treatment for their cancer, mainly by chemotherapy (75.4%). Overall, ID was found in 57.9% (55.1–60.6) of patients. Among them, functional ID accounted for 64% of cases. ID anaemia was reported in 21.8% (19.6–24.2) of all patients with cancer. ID was highly prevalent in untreated (75/130, 57.4%) and non-anaemic (419/775, 54.1%) patients.

Conclusion This study highlights the high prevalence of ID in patients with cancer, whether or not associated with anaemia or treatment. These results emphasise the need to a better detection and management of ID in cancer, thereby optimising overall patient care.

Trial registration number Identifier: NCT03924271.

  • cancer
  • metabolic disorders

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author. The data are not publicly available due to privacy or ethical restrictions.

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