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A systematic review of the association between circulating concentrations of C reactive protein and cancer
  1. Katriina Heikkilä1,
  2. Shah Ebrahim2,
  3. Debbie A Lawlor1
  1. 1Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  2. 2London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 MrsK Heikkilä
 Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Canynge Hall, Whiteladies Road, Bristol BS8 2PR, UK; k.heikkila{at}


The objective of this study was to review and summarise the published evidence for an association between circulating concentrations of C reactive protein (CRP) and cancer through a systematic review. 90 discrete studies were identified. 81 (90%) were prevalent case–control or cross-sectional studies, and only 9 studies had a prospective design. In most prevalent studies, CRP concentrations were found to be higher in patients with cancer than in healthy controls or controls with benign conditions. Of the nine large prospective studies identified in this review, four reported no relationship between circulating CRP levels and breast, prostate or colorectal cancers, and five studies found that CRP was associated with colorectal or lung cancers. Most of the studies evaluating CRP as a diagnostic marker of cancer did not present relevant statistical analyses. Furthermore, any association reported in the prevalent studies might reflect reverse causation, survival bias or confounding. The prospective studies provided no strong evidence for a causal role of CRP in cancer. Instead of further prevalent studies, more large prospective studies and CRP gene–cancer association studies would be valuable in investigating the role of CRP in cancer.

  • CRP, C reactive protein
  • IL, interleukin

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

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