Platelet and hemoglobin count at diagnosis are associated with survival in African American and Caucasian patients with colorectal cancer

Cancer Epidemiol. 2020 Aug;67:101746. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2020.101746. Epub 2020 Jun 7.


Background: African Americans (AAs) compared to Caucasian Americans (CAs) with colorectal cancer (CRC) have lower stage-specific survival. CRC patients often present with several hematopathologies (such as thrombocytosis, thrombocytopenia, anemia) at diagnosis, which is associated with poorer survival. However, whether these measures impact the racial disparity in survival is not known.

Methods: The study population was composed of 581 histologically confirmed CRCs at the Medical University of South Carolina (393 CA, 188 AA) diagnosed between 01/01/2000 and 06/30/2013. We used Cox proportional hazards regression to estimate the association between thrombocytosis, thrombocytopenia, or anemia at diagnosis and risk of death by race. This analysis was adjusted for age, sex, stage and first-line treatment.

Results: In all patients combined, thrombocytosis, thrombocytopenia, and anemia (vs. the normal ranges) were associated with significantly higher risks of death. In the race-specific analyses, AAs (HR 2.51 [95 % CI: 1.52-4.15]) vs. CAs (HR 1.15 [95 % CI: 0.75-1.75]) with thrombocytosis compared to normal had a higher risk of death (p for difference = 0.03).

Conclusions: Abnormal thrombocyte and hemoglobin levels at diagnosis were associated with poorer survival. AAs compared to CAs with elevated platelets at diagnosis had a higher risk of death. Our study is the first to examine the role of race, hematologic measures at diagnosis, and risk of death in colorectal cancer patients. These results suggest that the racial differences in the immune response may contribute to the racial disparity in survival.

Keywords: Anemia; Colorectal cancer; Race; Survival; Thrombocytopenia; Thrombocytosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Blood Platelets / pathology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / blood
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Female
  • Hemoglobins / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Rate
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*


  • Hemoglobins