According to a recent study published in the British Journal of General Practice, microcytosis could be a predictor of underlying cancer in primary care settings, despite haemoglobin being normal.
A cohort study analysed data of 108,993 individuals aged ≥40 years identified from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink database to examine the association between microcytosis (with or without accompanying anaemia) and the incidence of cancer.
Four per cent of patients with microcytosis had new cancer diagnosis within one year compared with 2.0 per cent of individuals without microcytosis. The one-year incidence of cancer was 6.2 per cent in males with microcytosis and 2.7 per cent in females with microcytosis. Colorectal, lung, lymphoma, kidney and stomach cancers were disproportionately more common in individuals with microcytosis. Among individuals with microcytosis but normal haemoglobin, the one-year incidence of cancer was 3.3 per cent in males and 2.0 per cent in females.
The authors conclude: "Patients in primary care with microcytosis may harbour cancer, with colorectal and lung cancers being the most probable. Most of the relevant initial investigations are available in primary care, allowing initial assessment of possible cancer to be performed rapidly."