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White Blood Cell counts


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White blood cell count linked to cancer deaths

Source: (cancerfacts.com)

Monday, January 30, 2006

CHICAGO– Jan. 30, 2006 – A high white blood cell count, a sign of inflammation, may be a reliable marker for having a high likelihood of dying of cancer, according to new study.

Led by Dr. Anoop Shankar, of the National University of Singpore, the research team found, in a study of more than 3,000 Australians who averaged 65.9 years old, that the risk of dying of cancer was greatest among the 25 percent of the study participants with the highest white blood cell count. The study appears in the Jan. 23 Archives of Internal Medicine.

"In our study, WBC (white blood cell) count was associated with cancer mortality, even after adjusting for smoking status," the authors wrote. "In subgroup analyses, the association was also present among those who never smoked, suggesting that the observed association between WBC count and cancer mortality is not fully explained by smoking."

White blood cell count, or the number of infection-fighting white blood cells in a specified quantity of blood, is a reliable and widely used marker that reflects inflammation throughout the body. People who smoke or have acute or chronic infections generally have a higher WBC count.

Previous studies have linked WBC count to other chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes. Some studies have also suggested that inflammation is related to the development and progression of cancer, but few researchers have examined whether WBC count and other markers of inflammation can predict cancer, the authors wrote.

To assess this potential link, Shankar and colleagues studied 3,189 Australians enrolled in an eye study. Eligible participants were born before Jan. 1, 1943, and were free of cancer when they were initially evaluated between 1992 and 1994. By the end of the study, on Dec. 31, 2001, 212 participants had died of cancer.

After controlling for other factors that might affect WBC count, including smoking, diabetes and aspirin use, the researchers found that the individuals in the 25 percent of the study population with the highest WBC counts had an increased risk of death from cancer. The association appeared especially strong for participants who died of lung cancer.

The study also suggests that aspirin may have a greater protective effect against cancer for those with high WBC, as the risk of cancer death was higher among those with high WBC who did not take aspirin weekly than among those who did.

SOURCE: Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:188-194.

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