Laboratories can conduct what is called an iron panel test, which includes a serum iron level, total iron binding capacity (TIBC), iron saturation, and ferritin levels. This test is far superior to getting just hemoglobin and hematocrit measures.
These tests give a comprehensive evaluation of the amount of free iron in a person’s blood, the percentage of iron carrier molecule (transferrin) saturation, the amount of iron carrier available for iron transport (TIBC) and the amount of iron in our tissues (ferritin).
When there is significant inflammation in the body, ferritin levels will be high — not because iron levels are high, but because ferritin is acting as an immune molecule.
High ferritin levels can be a sign of cancer metastasis, especially when a patient’s level of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) is also elevated.
Most lab reports give a range of normal. For example, iron levels for men vary from 76 mcg/dL to 198 mcg/dL; women’s levels range from 26 mcg/dL to 170 mcg/dL. Optimal iron is somewhere in the middle of those ranges, meaning men should be around 130 mcg/dL and women 96 mcg/dL.
High normal-range iron levels can still increase risk for degenerative diseases and cancer spread. For example, one study found that leukemia patients with a high normal iron level had a significantly higher risk of mortality than those who had lower normal iron levels.
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