Systematic review of the association between circulating interleukin-6 (IL-6) and cancer

Eur J Cancer. 2008 May;44(7):937-45. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2008.02.047. Epub 2008 Apr 1.


Our aim was to systematically review the epidemiologic evidence for an association of circulating interleukin-6 (IL-6), an inflammatory cytokine and cancer. We systematically searched electronic databases Embase, Medline and Web of Science for the studies of circulating IL-6 and any form of cancer. We identified and reviewed 189 discrete studies, consisting of 177 prevalent studies and three prospective studies. Cancer patients' IL-6 concentrations were higher than healthy controls' in most studies, but the results of investigations comparing IL-6 in cancer patients and individuals with benign diseases were less consistent. Due to the small number of prospective studies it is impossible to determine whether IL-6 is causally related to cancer. Large prospective studies of circulating IL-6 or studies using the functional variants of the IL-6 gene as instruments for circulating IL-6 concentrations would provide information on possible aetiological links between IL-6 and malignancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Interleukin-6 / blood*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / etiology


  • Interleukin-6