Risk factors for disease states are rigorously defined. This analysis considers the definition of a risk factor as applied to the question of whether the serum phosphorus level is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Observational studies strongly suggest that phosphorus is associated with cardiovascular risk, and definitive prospective animal studies are supportive. A plausible mechanism of action has been discovered demonstrating that phosphorus stimulates osteoblastic transition of cells in the neointima of atherosclerotic plaques, which, if prevented, blocks vascular calcification. However, prospective studies demonstrating that modulation of the putative risk factor affects clinical outcomes are lacking, and phosphorus, as yet, does not qualify as a cardiovascular risk factor. This is a clarion call for additional research.
- arterial calcification
- cardiovascular disease