A new study by a student at the University of Exeter School of Medicine may have found a new type of early biomarker that could be used to treat a wide range of different cancers. Subjects with abnormally small red blood cells were twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer as those with normal blood outcomes, the study found.
Microcytosis is a medical condition in which patients exhibit an abnormally small increase in red blood cells, which can be caused by a number of different potential factors, including anemia or iron deficiency. Previous studies have found a link between Microcytosis and cancers such as colorectal or kidney cancer, but this is the first to examine whether this blood condition can be used as a broad biomarker for multiple cancers.
The study examined anonymous data records of more than 100,000 patients in the UK and found that about 12,000 microcytosis patients were recorded. Overall, 4% of Microcytosis patients were diagnosed with cancer during a one-year follow-up. By contrast, only 2% of non-Microcytosis patients were diagnosed with cancer during the same follow-up period.
The researchers looked specifically at men and found that their cancer risk was slightly higher, with a 6.2 percent increase difiered cancer risk associated with Microcytosis, compared with a 2.7 percent risk in the male control group. The relationship between colorectal cancer, lung cancer, lymphoma, kidney cancer and stomach cancer is most prominent with microcyst. No link was found in the data.
“Research aimed at early diagnosis of cancer is so important to reduce the burden of this devastating disease,” said Rhian Hopkins, a medical student and lead author of the study. “Identifying a range of cancer-related markers, such as Microcytosis, can have a real impact in primary care. “
Will Hamilton, who oversaw the study of students at Johns Hopkins University, said the findings provide doctors with new clues that could help doctors in their diagnostic tool library. Microcytosis is relatively simple with standard blood tests, combined with other patient data, to help detect cancer at an early stage.
“Small red blood cells have long been associated with colon cancer, but this study suggests that red blood cells are a broader clue to one of several possible cancers. Hamilton said.
The new study was published in the british journal of general practice.