Journal article

Clinical relevance of thrombocytosis in primary care: A prospective cohort study of cancer incidence using English electronic medical records and cancer registry data

Bailey S, Ukoumunne O, Shephard E, Hamilton W ...see all

British Journal of General Practice, vol. 67, issue 659 (2017) pp. e405-e413 Published by Royal College of General Practitioners

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BACKGROUND Thrombocytosis (raised platelet count) is an emerging risk marker of cancer, but the association has not been fully explored in a primary care context. AIM To examine the incidence of cancer in a cohort of patients with thrombocytosis, to determine how clinically useful this risk marker could be in predicting an underlying malignancy. DESIGN AND SETTING A prospective cohort study using Clinical Practice Research Datalink data from 2000 to 2013. METHOD The 1-year incidence of cancer was compared between two cohorts: 40 000 patients aged ≥40 years with a platelet count of >400 × 10(9)/L (thrombocytosis) and 10 000 matched patients with a normal platelet count. Sub-analyses examined the risk with change in platelet count, sex, age, and different cancer sites. RESULTS A total of 1098 out of 9435 males with thrombocytosis were diagnosed with cancer (11.6%; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 11.0 to 12.3), compared with 106 of 2599 males without thrombocytosis (4.1%; 95% CI = 3.4 to 4.9). A total of 1355 out of 21 826 females with thrombocytosis developed cancer (6.2%; 95% CI = 5.9 to 6.5), compared with 119 of 5370 females without (2.2%; 95% CI = 1.8 to 2.6). The risk of cancer increased to 18.1% (95% CI = 15.9 to 20.5) for males and 10.1% (95% CI = 9.0 to 11.3) for females, when a second raised platelet count was recorded within 6 months. Lung and colorectal cancer were more commonly diagnosed with thrombocytosis. One-third of patients with thrombocytosis and lung or colorectal cancer had no other symptoms indicative of malignancy. CONCLUSION Thrombocytosis is a risk marker of cancer in adults; 11.6% and 6.2% cancer incidence in males and females, respectively, is worthy of further investigation for underlying malignancy. These figures well exceed the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence-mandated risk threshold of 3% risk to warrant referral for suspected cancer.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Cancer
  • Platelet count
  • Positive predictive value
  • Primary care
  • Risk marker
  • Thrombocytosis

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  • Sarah E.R. Bailey

  • Obioha C. Ukoumunne

  • Elizabeth A. Shephard

  • Willie Hamilton

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