Cancer predictors?

Scientists in Australia and Singapore have discovered that white blood cell counts can predict a person's risk of death from cancer.

People with high levels of white blood cells—which help protect the body from infectious diseases—are at greater risk of death from cancer than people with lower white blood cell counts.

Red and white blood cells: Red and white blood cells. The white blood cells are the larger ones with the dark, irregular nuclei. (Photo courtesy U.S. National Institutes of Health)

White blood cells and cancer

White blood cells in circulating blood are a sign of inflammation—the body's response to infection, irritation, or injury. Several recent studies have found a link between inflammation, especially chronic inflammation, and cancer.

White blood cells fight germs such as bacteria and viruses, and may try to destroy cells that are infected or have changed into cancer cells. Large numbers of white blood cells are found in tumors, and the number of white blood cells seems to match the tumor stage and patient's prognosis. In this study, people with the highest numbers of circulating white blood cells had a 73% greater risk of death from cancer than people with the lowest numbers.

Marker, not a diagnosis

There's an association between high white blood cell counts and cancer, but cancer isn't the only reason for large numbers of circulating white blood cells. High blood sugar, blood fats, or infections can also increase their numbers.

Make it at the Museum

Come to the Museum on Saturday, February 18, and you can make a model of the parts of your blood. Then visit the Human Body Gallery to see how much blood your body contains.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

put more picturs and info

posted on Thu, 04/20/2006 - 4:38pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw0jmvdh.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options