A new way to predict cancer: platelet counts.
A common blood test could help diagnose cancer earlier, according to research suggesting a high platelet count is strongly associated with the disease.
Platelets are tiny blood cells that circulate in the body, helping wounds to clot. But in some individuals too many platelets are produced – a condition known as thrombocytosis, thought to affect about half a million people in the UK over the age of 40.
Researchers say that raised platelet counts are as good a predictor of getting any cancer as a lump in the breast is for breast cancer.
“This is a clue which can be used in practice by GPs to help them select patients for further investigation … most excitingly in some patients who may not already have other symptoms of cancer to achieve earlier diagnosis,” said Sarah Bailey, co-author of the research from the University of Exeter.
Previous studies have suggested a link between thrombocytosis and various cancers, with recent guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence advising high platelet counts could be a sign of cancer of the oesophageal, stomach, lung or uterus.
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