Analysis of Platelet Count and New Cancer Diagnosis Over a 10-Year Period

Published: January 11, 2022
Category: Bibliography
Authors: Jennifer D. Brooks, Joanne Kotsopoulos, Laura Rosella, Lorraine Lipscombe, Matthew C. Cheung, Mohammad R. Akbari, Peter C. Austin, Steven A. Narod, Vasily Giannakeas
Countries: Canada
Language: English
Types: Care coordination, Diagnoses, Health Risk
Settings: Health Plan



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.


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.


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.


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.

elevated platelet count,cancer risk,cancer diagnosis

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