Clinical relevance of thrombocytosis in primary care: a prospective cohort study of cancer incidence using English electronic medical records and cancer registry data

Background??Thrombocytosis (raised platelet count) is an emerging risk marker of cancer, but the association has not been fully explored in a primary care context. Aim??To examine the incidence of cancer in a cohort of patients with thrombocytosis, to determine how clinically useful this risk marker could be in predicting an underlying malignancy. Design and setting??A prospective cohort study using Clinical Practice Research Datalink data from 2000 to 2013. Method??The 1-year incidence of cancer was compared between two cohorts: 40 000 patients aged ?????40 years with a platelet count of >400 ??- 109/L (thrombocytosis) and 10 000 matched patients with a normal platelet count. Sub-analyses examined the risk with change in platelet count, sex, age, and different cancer sites. Results??A total of 1098 out of 9435 males with thrombocytosis were diagnosed with cancer (11.6%; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 11.0 to 12.3), compared with 106 of 2599 males without thrombocytosis (4.1%; 95% CI = 3.4 to 4.9). A total of 1355 out of 21 826 females with thrombocytosis developed cancer (6.2%; 95% CI = 5.9 to 6.5), compared with 119 of 5370 females without (2.2%; 95% CI = 1.8 to 2.6). The risk of cancer increased to 18.1% (95% CI = 15.9 to 20.5) for males and 10.1% (95% CI = 9.0 to 11.3) for females, when a second raised platelet count was recorded within 6 months. Lung and colorectal cancer were more commonly diagnosed with thrombocytosis. One-third of patients with thrombocytosis and lung or colorectal cancer had no other symptoms indicative of malignancy. Conclusion??Thrombocytosis is a risk marker of cancer in adults; 11.6% and 6.2% cancer incidence in males and females, respectively, is worthy of further investigation for underlying malignancy. These figures well exceed the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence-mandated risk threshold of 3% risk to warrant referral for suspected cancer.