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Clinical relevance of thrombocytosis in primary care: a prospective cohort study

Study explores one year incidence of cancer in a community population 

The early detection of cancer in the population of patients seen by general practitioners could be prompted by the presence of a raised platelet count, or thrombocytosis, according to researchers from Exeter.

To determine the clinical utility of thrombocytosis as a potential risk marker for cancer, the study explored the one year incidence of cancer in the community population using a large-scale prospective cohort study of data from anonymised electronic primary care records, from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink.

The researchers extracted data from a random sample of 40,000 patients with an elevated platelet count (>400x109/L) and 10,000 patients with a normal platelet count.

The study found that 11% of men and 6% of women with thrombocytosis were diagnosed with cancer, compared with 4% of men and 2% of women without a raised platelet count. This risk of cancer

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The early detection of cancer in the population of patients seen by general practitioners could be prompted by the presence of a raised platelet count, or thrombocytosis, according to researchers from Exeter.


Picture: Science Photo Library

To determine the clinical utility of thrombocytosis as a potential risk marker for cancer, the study explored the one year incidence of cancer in the community population using a large-scale prospective cohort study of data from anonymised electronic primary care records, from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink.

The researchers extracted data from a random sample of 40,000 patients with an elevated platelet count (>400x109/L) and 10,000 patients with a normal platelet count.

The study found that 11% of men and 6% of women with thrombocytosis were diagnosed with cancer, compared with 4% of men and 2% of women without a raised platelet count. This risk of cancer was increased further with increasing platelet count, and when a second elevated platelet count was recorded within six months.

Lung and colorectal cancer were the most commonly occurring cancers. Almost one third of the patients had no other presenting complaints, suggesting the test could be a useful ‘trigger’ for further review in a population of patients previously not meeting NICE recommendations for urgent referral.


Bailey SE, Ukoumunne OC, Shephard EA et al (2017). British Journal of General Practice doi: 10.3399/bjgp17X691109.

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