Is Low Potassium A Sign Of Cancer? Know The Details Here!

is low potassium a sign of cancer

Potassium is the latest mineral to come under the scanner! The latest study conducted jointly by PGIMER, Chandigarh, and The George Institute For Global Health, India – shows that the North Indian diet specifically (other diets are still under consideration) has low potassium and high salt and phosphorus levels. This published data has further gone ahead to connect the probability of cancer to low potassium levels in the body. So, to everyone wanting to know is low potassium a sign of cancer, the answer is – that there is a connection between electrolyte imbalance and cancer development/enhancement. 

How are these two connected? Also, what are the symptoms of low potassium? How will you increase the levels? We have all the answers for you right here! 

Why are potassium levels in food back in the news? 

potassium deficiency related to cancer
Image Credit: Medanta Hospital

For those of you wondering why suddenly potassium is in the news, and that too with regards to its links to cancer – the reason is a recently published research journal. The data states – that soils globally are running low on potassium, which directly affects the growth of plants and their nutrient content. 

Therefore, with a low potassium content in food products, human levels are also facing a topsy-turvy situation. This significantly affects the nutrition levels and gives rise to a host of nutrient-deficient diseases! Amongst many others, cancer is one of the illnesses that seems to be coming to the forefront prominently. 

Is low potassium a sign of cancer? 

cancer patient with potassium deficiency
Image Credit: Getty Images

So, how true is this connection? We will assuredly look into that – 

From multiple researches, it has been found as of now that – kidney, colon and lung cancer are the ones that are specifically related to low potassium levels. Apart from that, gastrointestinal cancers (pancreatic) or blood-related cancers (leukemia) also fluctuate the potassium levels in the body. 

Having said that, you must understand that complex alterations occur in cancer patients throughout, and the electrolyte imbalance worsens their already poor clinical conditions. For those categorically asking how and is low potassium a sign of cancer, there has been more than a singular situation wherein an increase (hyperkalemia) or reduction (hypokalemia) has been the source of fluctuations in potassium levels. 

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Cancer cells can potentially disrupt the regulation system of potassium content. Tumor growth can simultaneously affect the levels as well. Once cancer is detected, and chemotherapy is ongoing, then that too can disrupt the standard potassium levels.  

Another crucial point to note is that – potassium levels have a strong role to play in paraneoplastic syndromes. In this case, it is the cancer cells which disrupt the normal function of surrounding cells. A minimal potassium level exacerbates this condition significantly. 

Overall, we can state that – low potassium is one of the key signs of cancer (or any related tumor growth), and it is better to get yourself tested than harbor doubts. 

How electrolyte disorders are connected to cancers? 

cancer patient getting treatment
Image Credit:

Electrolyte disorders are common in cancer patients. In the majority of the cases, it has been found that at a preliminary stage, the primary symptoms of low potassium levels escalate to incorporate multiple illnesses (even cancer in rare cases). Often, it has been found in cancer patients that – there are alterations in potassium homeostasis, which enhances the problems of patients with solid tumors (cancerous). 

Since potassium assists in maintaining nerve transmissions and managing muscular contractions and blood pressure, any imbalance increases the chances of cancer detection/escalation. 

What are the symptoms of low potassium? 

constant fatigue due to low potassium
Image Credit: Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials

Before we get clarity about the precise symptoms of a low potassium content, you must understand that – not always are these symptoms connected to cancer detection. There are times when it is simply a below-normal potassium level that is causing the outburst of specific symptoms. Let us look into it – 

  • Excessive muscle cramps for a prolonged period 
  • Consistent fatigue and weakness in the body 
  • A range of digestive problems – especially bloating and constipation 
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) followed by difficulty in breathing 
  • High blood pressure (potassium balances the sodium levels within the body) and frequent urination 
  • Lastly, a tingling session within the body could also result in a certain amount of numbness 

None of these are directly related to cancer symptoms. But, if left untreated, then that could escalate into complications. 

Which foods improve potassium content? 

potassium rich foods
Image Credit: Getty Images

Irrespective of the fact – is low potassium a sign of cancer, it is imperative to include 3.50 grams of potassium in your daily diet. It will maintain the electrolyte balance of your body and help it nourish itself. The respective foods are – 

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Fruits  Bananas, Dates, Cantaloupe, Kiwis, Grapefruit juice, Papaya, Pomegranate, Orange, Cucumber, Raisins
Vegetables  Potatoes, Broccoli, Artichoke, Beans, Kohlrabi, Lentils, Legumes, Spinach, White Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Pumpkin 
Additional food products  Beef, Bran, Chicken, Milk, Peanut Butter, Nuts – Seeds, Salmon, Yogurt, Granola, Wheat germ, Molasses 


While consuming any of these products, you must remember that 1 serving of each per day(1/2 cup as per US metrics), of any 1/2 of them is good enough for your daily potassium content. 

Conclusive thoughts 

Potassium, an electrolyte, is one of the most crucial elements in your diet. Given that it is one of the key elements in maintaining the potential of membranes in muscle and nervous cells, it must be adequately present in your blood. Now, is low potassium a sign of cancer or not, you have seen from this post itself, how these are connected. Also, alterations in the electrolyte levels can significantly enhance the risks of getting cancer. Having said that, you must maintain the levels through the correct intake (following WHO guidelines) and keep a check on your health through regular monitoring. For those with further queries, you can scroll down for the answers. 

If you enjoyed reading this post and want to know more health updates like this, visit this website. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. What is the primary role of potassium in the body?

The key roles played by potassium in the body are regulating muscle contractions and the nervous system, maintaining the fluid balance within the cells, supporting cardiovascular activities, and assisting in maintaining sodium levels within the body. 

2. How is it lost from the body? 

The potassium loss in the body is caused by – ileostomy, diarrhea, usage of laxatives, vomiting, diuretic medications, low magnesium levels and others. 

3. What are the categorical signs related to low potassium level and colon cancer? 

The concerned signs are – diarrhea (excessive and for a long duration), consistent muscle weakness, electrolyte imbalance in the body, and arrhythmia. 

4. When do you need to see a doctor? 

If you have been experiencing any of the above-mentioned issues for more than 15 days, it is time to visit a medical professional. 

5. What are the tests for low potassium levels? 

The multiple tests that you can take to detect low potassium levels are serum potassium tests, urine tests, and ECG. These tests precisely reveal the potassium levels in your body. 


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