Excessive erythrocytosis, chronic mountain sickness, and serum cobalt levels

Lancet. 2002 Feb 2;359(9304):407-8. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(02)07594-3.


In a subset of high-altitude dwellers, the appropriate erythrocytotic response becomes excessive and can result in chronic mountain sickness. We studied men with (study group) and without excessive erythrocytosis (packed-cell volume >65%) living in Cerro de Pasco, Peru (altitude 4300 m), and compared them with controls living in Lima, Peru (at sea-level). Toxic serum cobalt concentrations were detected in 11 of 21 (52%) study participants with excessive erythrocytosis, but were undetectable in high altitude or sea-level controls. In the mining community of Cerro de Pasco, cobalt toxicity might be an important contributor to excessive erythrocytosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Altitude Sickness / blood*
  • Altitude*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cobalt / adverse effects
  • Cobalt / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peru
  • Polycythemia / blood*
  • Polycythemia / etiology


  • Cobalt