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Home News and Update Year 2010 Anaemia Can Predict Colon Cancer Early On

Anaemia Can Predict Colon Cancer Early On

Times of India
05 August 2010

Anaemia, a common blood disorder characterised by low hemoglobin levels in the blood, can actually indicate a potential for colon cancer years before it’s actually diagnosed
Anaemia Can Predict Colon Cancer Early On
Graduate student Inbal Goldshtein, who worked with Gabriel Chodick and Varda Shalev of Tel Aviv University, says that paying close attention to routine blood test results can be an effective screening system for colon cancer which, when diagnosed early enough, can be treated effectively.

The study, recently published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, shows that most patients with colon cancer have a history of consistently declining hemoglobin levels up to four years before being diagnosed with the disease.

Previously, says Goldshtein, researchers only looked for a sharp decrease in hemoglobin levels as a symptom of colon cancer. But the researchers have discovered that it’s the continuous long-term decline that may announce the onset of cancer.

Taking into account the correlation between anemia and colorectal cancer, the team was keen to discover if a decline in hemoglobin levels could be detected prior to the critical stages of the disease – something no researcher had yet attempted to quantify.

Over 3,000 patients suffering from colorectal cancer participated in the study; they were compared with 10,000 control cases without colorectal cancer. The researchers looked at data from each participant’s blood tests over a ten-year period.

Though hemoglobin levels may vary in every human being as a result of aging, a distinct trend was discovered among study participants who had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer during the study period.

Approximately four years prior to their diagnoses, their blood tests began to show a continuous decline in hemoglobin levels.

For the most part, says Goldshtein, these warning signs went unnoticed. "In practice, a doctor will look at the final results, and see if the hemoglobin levels are within a normal range."

"But this is not accurate enough. It is important to look at the continuing trend. If a person experiences a consistent decline relative to his own average level, it may be cause for concern."

Participants of the study with colorectal cancer experienced a sharp decline in hemoglobin levels, but because the declines did not put them outside the normal range, no red flags were raised. The benefit of this screening process is that can be part of an average physical. Current testing for colorectal cancer is often expensive and unpleasant. There is also a very low compliance rate among patients, she adds.

The next step, says Shalev, is to create an algorithm which will detect suspicious declines in hemoglobin levels, advising physicians to send their patients for further testing. Ideally, the computer programme could calculate and display warnings when there is cause for concern.

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