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J Epidemiol. 2011;21(3):161-8. Epub 2011 Feb 26.

High-sensitivity C-reactive protein and cancer.

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Health Promotion Center, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Songpa-gu, Seoul, South Korea.



High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) is a commonly used inflammatory marker. The association between hs-CRP and cancer is less consistent than that between hs-CRP and cardiovascular diseases. This study explored the association between hs-CRP and cancer, using a large database of Korean health examination records.


A total of 80,781 Koreans who visited the health promotion center of a general hospital were included. There were 729 cases of cancer of any primary site during a 3-year period. Subjects with a known cancer or a condition capable of affecting hs-CRP were excluded.


Serum hs-CRP was significantly higher in cancer cases (2.9 mg/L) than in non-cases (1.4 mg/L; P < 0.0001). With the lowest hs-CRP category (<1 mg/L) as reference, the crude odds ratios (ORs) for cancer were 1.36 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.16-1.62) for the second highest category (1-3 mg/L) and 2.49 (95% CI = 2.02-3.07) for the highest category (>3 mg/L), and the adjusted ORs for cancer were 1.16 (95% CI = 0.95-1.42) for the second highest category and 1.94 (95% CI = 1.51-2.51) for the highest category. After excluding cancer cases detected within 1 year after the check-up, the associations remained, although the reduced number of cancer cases (n = 88) attenuated the significance of the associations.


Serum hs-CRP was positively associated with the risk of cancer, although causality cannot be inferred in this cross-sectional study. The results support the hypothesis that chronic inflammation plays a role in cancer.

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