Trends in the full blood count blood test and colorectal cancer detection: a longitudinal, case-control study of UK primary care patient data
Virdee PS., Patnick J., Watkinson P., Birks J., Holt T.
Background: The full blood count (FBC) is a common blood test performed in general practice. It consists of many individual parameters that may change over time due to colorectal cancer. Such changes are likely missed in practice. We identified trends in these FBC parameters to facilitate early detection of colorectal cancer. Methods: We performed a retrospective, case-control, longitudinal analysis of UK primary care patient data. LOWESS smoothing and mixed effects models were derived to compare trends in each FBC parameter between patients diagnosed and not diagnosed over a prior 10-year period. Results: There were 399,405 males (2.3%, n = 9,255 diagnosed) and 540,544 females (1.5%, n = 8,153 diagnosed) in the study. There was no difference between cases and controls in FBC trends between 10 and four years before diagnosis. Within four years of diagnosis, trends in many FBC levels statistically significantly differed between cases and controls, including red blood cell count, haemoglobin, white blood cell count, and platelets (interaction between time and colorectal cancer presence: p <0.05). FBC trends were similar between Duke’s Stage A and D colorectal tumours, but started around one year earlier in Stage D diagnoses. Conclusions: Trends in FBC parameters are different between patients with and without colorectal cancer for up to four years prior to diagnosis. Such trends could help earlier identification.