By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD
In a study of over 3,000 older Australians, those with a higher white cell count were more likely to die of cancer. Elevated white blood cell (WBC) count is a known sign of inflammation in the body. Those who smoke or who have an infection have a higher WBC count. Now researchers at the National University of Singapore report that elevated WBC count is linked with cancer.
They studied over 3,000 Australians who were initially free of cancer at the start of the study in 1992 to 1994 and measured their WBC. Those in the highest quarter turned out to have an increased risk of dying of cancer by the end of the study, in 2001. The risk seemed to be independent of the participants' smoking status. The study also suggested that aspirin might have a protective effect. For the risk of cancer among those with a high WBC count was higher among those who did not take aspirin weekly compared to those who did. The study is important in pointing to the link between inflammation and cancer.
Archives of Internal Medicine 23rd January 2006 Volume 166 pages 188-194