Background: C-reactive protein (CRP) predicts risk for future cardiovascular events in asymptomatic individuals. However, because CRP also predicts total mortality, its specificity for vascular disease is uncertain.
Objective: To compare the predictive value of CRP for cancer and cardiovascular disease, the major determinants of mortality.
Design: Prospective, nested case-control study.
Setting: The Women's Health Study, an ongoing prospective cohort study involving 28345 U.S. women 45 years of age and older who were healthy at the time of enrollment.
Participants: 643 women who subsequently developed cancer or had cardiovascular events; 643 age- and smoking-matched women who remained free of either disease during 58-month follow-up.
Measurements: Baseline CRP levels.
Results: Little evidence showed that increasing quartiles of baseline CRP predicted incident cancer (adjusted relative risks, 1.0, 1.2, 1.1, and 1.3; P for trend > 0.2). In contrast, increasing quartiles of baseline CRP were a strong marker of risk for future cardiovascular disease (adjusted relative risks, 1.0, 2.9, 3.4, and 5.6; P for trend < 0.001).
Conclusion: C-reactive protein appears to independently predict cardiovascular events but not cancer.