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Analysis of platelet count and new cancer diagnosis over a 10-year period

Giannakeas V, Kotsopoulos J, Cheung MC, Rosella L, Brooks JD, Lipscombe L, Akbari MR, Austin PC, Narod SA. JAMA Netw Open. 2022; 5(1):e2141633. Epub 2022 Jan 11. DOI:

Importance — Individuals with cancer often have an elevated platelet count at the time of diagnosis. The extent to which an elevated platelet count is an indicator of cancer is unclear.

Objective — To evaluate the association of an elevated platelet count with a cancer diagnosis.

Design, Setting, and Participants — This nested case-control study included Ontario residents enrolled in the provincial health insurance plan who had 1 or more routine complete blood count (CBC) tests performed between January 1, 2007, and December 31, 2017, with follow-up through December 31, 2018. Case patients were individuals with a new cancer diagnosis during the observation period. Eligible control individuals were cancer free before the date of diagnosis for a case patient to whom they were matched. One case patient was matched to 3 controls based on sex, age, and health care use patterns. Data were analyzed from September 24, 2020, to July 13, 2021.

Exposures — Case patients and controls were assigned to 1 of 5 exposure groups based on age- and sex-specific platelet count distributions in the control population: very low (≤10th percentile), low (>10th to 25th percentile), medium (>25th to <75th percentile), high (75th to <90th percentile), and very high (≥90th percentile).

Main Outcomes and Measures — Odds ratios (ORs) were estimated for specific cancer sites for each category of platelet count at intervals up to 10 years after a blood test.

Results — Of the 8 917 187 eligible Ontario residents with a routine CBC record available, 4 971 578 (55.8%) were women; the median age at the first CBC was 46.4 years (IQR, 32.5-59.5 years). Among individuals with a routine CBC record available, 495 341 (5.6%) received a diagnosis of first primary cancer during the 10-year observation period. The OR for a solid tumor diagnosis associated with a very high platelet count vs a medium platelet count in the 6-month period before the diagnosis was 2.32 (95% CI, 2.28-2.35). A very high platelet count was associated with colon (OR, 4.38; 95% CI, 4.22-4.54), lung (OR, 4.37; 95% CI, 4.22-4.53), ovarian (OR, 4.62; 95% CI, 4.19-5.09), and stomach (OR, 4.27; 95% CI, 3.91-4.66) cancers. Odds ratios attenuated with increasing time from CBC test to cancer diagnosis.

Conclusions and Relevance — In this nested case-control study, an elevated platelet count was associated with increased risk of cancer at several sites. Our findings suggest that an elevated platelet count could potentially serve as a marker for the presence of some cancer types.

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