02/28/2011 - News

Does a High White Blood Cell Count Mean Cancer?

By: Robert W. Griffith, MD

Does a High White Blood Cell Count Mean Cancer?

Inflammatory changes in the body, sometimes shown by "inflammatory markers" in the blood such as CRP (C-reactive protein), have been linked with a number of diseases, including cancer.

Researchers have now used data from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Study to see if there's a relationship between the white blood cell (WBC) count and the occurrence of 4 specific cancers. Their findings are published in the Archives of Internal Medicine .

The WHI study involved over 140,000 postmenopausal women from 40 clinical centers in the USA . Women with a white blood cell count in the high-but-still-normal range (between 7 and 15 thousand per mm3) were significantly more likely to develop invasive breast cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial (uterine) cancer , and lung cancer. They also had an increased risk of breast, lung, and overall mortality.

The actual increased risks ranged from 15% to 63% - quite small, compared with the risk linked with smoking, for instance. However, a WBC count over 7,000/mm3, if it's persistent and without a known cause, means the patient should be watched (and maybe tested) for signs of early cancer.

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HealthandAge Blog

Created on: 10/17/2007
Reviewed on: 02/28/2011

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Anonymous wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

Considering there is a margin of error in WBC -- the presence of an appreciable increase in WBC in typically indicative of an immune system response that could be caused by many different factors, such as stress, infection, etc. Recent studies have shown that an individual's white blood count can vary between what is classfied as 'high' and what is classified as 'normal' based on being exposed to different environmental triggers (pollen, subway, public, etc.). This is a normal response of your immune system and is not normally a cause for any alarm. As always, followup with your primary care physician or seek emergency medical services if you experience any distressed symptoms.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

i was told today april 29/10 by my dr. that my white blood cell count was slightly elevated, he asked me if i smoked or if i still feel fatigued and if at the time of doing my blood test if i had a cold or an infection. to all the above i said no. my dr. says that he is not alarmed by this be cause it is only slightly elevated, by he still wants me to go for blood tests again

Anonymous wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

I am 32 years old have been told I have a high white blood cell count by different docters over the years sence I was 18 years old but no docter has ever told me what to do next. What tests should I get? What should I look for? I had a great Grandmother with Leukemia but they said it was a genetic thing with her? Just Curious in Idaho

Anonymous wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I was told I have high white blood cells since 2005 and the only thing I am feeling is tired and no energy

Anonymous wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

me to but i still have to get blood drawn

Anonymous wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

Same here high wbc and still have blood counts.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 36 weeks ago

my white blood cell is too high and ers is too high bacause of there is a infection in my blood
i am suffuring high fever for two years
what should i do for this please answer my question quickly

Anonymous wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

i have just been told i have a high white cell count and iv been really sick and ill for 14 days im so so tired and run down all the time and have a history of cancer in the family should i be concerned

Anonymous wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

How often does high WBC lead to cancer

Anonymous wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

i went to see a new doctor last week i have been feeling very tired and week the last few months i asked my old dr to do blood tests didnt feel right the new doctor did i got a call saying my wight blood cell count was very high but she sees no infection that she needs to run more test i am now wondering what could be wrong?

Anonymous wrote 1 year 45 weeks ago

get to the oncologist right away.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

To a cancer patient, it's the white blood cells that are the most important. When someone is originally diagnosed with cancer, their white blood cell count may be too high or too low (it depends on the type of cancer). Normal levels of white blood cell count are generally considered to be 5000 to 11,000 cells per cubic millimeter per liter. Low white blood cell count is less than 5000 cells per cubic millimeter per liter. High white blood cell count is 11,000 and above.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

anonymous, sounds like u may have lymphoma

Anonymous wrote 2 years 11 weeks ago

what does it mean when the left side under the ribs is burning hot and my white blood cell count is high. I did have melanoma. My grandmother died from melanoma. It was removed from me and it has roots with tumors on the end of its roots. I have usual scarring and brusing. shortness of breath. I sweat while I sleep and my feet and hands burn. I get very dizzy suddenly and loose my balance. headaches, swollen upper stomach, fatigued, run down. can't shut my eyes without feeling like I am going to fall.