By: Robert W. Griffith, MD
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.