Clinical use: Clinicians use the testing of calcitonin for diagnosis and follow-up of medullary thyroid carcinoma, multiple endocrine neoplasia type II and familial medullary thyroid carcinoma. Occasionally useful in the diagnosis and follow-up of islet cell tumours.
Background: In the normal physiological situation, calcitonin is a polypeptide hormone secreted by the parafollicular cells (also referred to as calcitonin cells or C-cells) of the thyroid gland. The main action of calcitonin is the inhibition of bone resorption by regulating the number and activity of osteoclasts. Calcitonin is secreted in direct response to serum hypercalcemia and may prevent large oscillations in serum calcium levels and excessive loss of body calcium. However, in comparison to parathyroid hormone (PTH) and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, the role of calcitonin in the regulation of serum calcium in humans is minor. Measurements of serum calcitonin levels are, therefore, not useful in the diagnosis of disorders of calcium homeostasis.Malignant tumors arising from thyroid C-cells (medullary thyroid carcinoma [MTC]) usually produce elevated levels of calcitonin. MTC is an uncommon malignant thyroid tumour, comprising <5% of all thyroid malignancies. Approximately 25% of these cases are familial, usually appearing as a component of multiple endocrine
neoplasia type II (MENII, Sipple syndrome). MTC may also occur in families without other associated endocrine dysfunction, with similar autosomal dominant transmission as MENII, which is then called familial medullary thyroid carcinoma (FMTC).Other neuroectodermal endocrine tumours, particularly islet cell tumours, may also produce calcitonin, but do so much less frequently.

Calcitonin level elevations also may occur with:

  • Cancer of the lung, breast, or pancreas
  • Intestinal, gastric, or bronchial carcinoids
  • Chronic renal failure, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, or pernicious anaemia
  • Pregnant females at term
  • Newborns
Reference ranges: Males 0-11 ng/L
Females 0-6 ng/L
Associated diseases:
Patient preparation: None required
Specimen requirements: Plasma – Lithium Heparin (green top) tube
Turnaround time: 6 weeks
Additional information:
Referred test: Referred test
Location: SAS Laboratory