Document Type

Journal Article

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BMC cancer [electronic resource]







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BioMed Central Ltd.


School of Medical and Health Sciences


Originally published as : Adris, N., Chua, A. C. G., Knuiman, M. W., Divitini, M. L., Trinder, D., & Olynyk, J. K. (2018). A prospective cohort examination of haematological parameters in relation to cancer death and incidence: the Busselton Health Study. BMC cancer, 18(1), 863. Original article can be found here


BACKGROUND: Cancer risk is associated with serum iron levels. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether haematological parameters reflect serum iron levels and may also be associated with cancer risk.

METHODS: We studied 1564 men and 1769 women who were enrolled in the Busselton Health Study, Western Australia. Haematological parameters evaluated included haemoglobin (Hb), mean cell volume (MCV), mean cell haemoglobin (MCH) and mean cell haemoglobin concentration (MCHC) and red cell distribution width (RCDW). Statistical analyses included t-tests for quantitative variables, chi-square tests for categorical variables and Cox proportional hazards regression modelling for cancer incidence and death.

RESULTS: There was marginal evidence of an association between MCV (as a continuous variable) and non-skin cancer incidence in women (HR 1.15, 95% CI 1.013, 1.302; p = 0.030) but the hazard ratio was attenuated to non-significance after adjustment for serum ferritin (SF), iron and transferrin saturation (TS) (HR 1.11, 95% CI 0.972, 1.264; p = 0.126). There was strong evidence of an association between MCHC and prostate cancer incidence in men; the estimated hazard ratio for an increase of one SD (0.5) in MCHC was 1.27 (95% CI 1.064, 1.507; p = 0.008). These results remained significant after further adjustment for SF and iron; the estimated hazard ratio for an increase of one SD (0.5) in MCHC was 1.25 (p = 0.014, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.48).

CONCLUSIONS: The MCHC and MCV were associated with cancer incidence in a Western Australian population, although only MCHC remained associated with prostate cancer after adjusting with serum iron and TS (circulating iron) and SF (storage iron). Haematological parameters are thus of limited utility in population profiling for future cancer risk.



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