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INTRODUCTION: A full blood count (FBC) blood test includes 20 components. We systematically reviewed studies that assessed the association of the FBC and diagnosis of colorectal cancer to identify components as risk factors. We reviewed FBC-based prediction models for colorectal cancer risk. METHODS: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and Web of Science were searched until 3 September 2019. We meta-analysed the mean difference in FBC components between those with and without a diagnosis and critically appraised the development and validation of FBC-based prediction models. RESULTS: We included 53 eligible articles. Three of four meta-analysed components showed an association with diagnosis. In the remaining 16 with insufficient data for meta-analysis, three were associated with colorectal cancer. Thirteen FBC-based models were developed. Model performance was commonly assessed using the c-statistic (range 0.72-0.91) and calibration plots. Some models appeared to work well for early detection but good performance may be driven by early events. CONCLUSION: Red blood cells, haemoglobin, mean corpuscular volume, red blood cell distribution width, white blood cell count, and platelets are associated with diagnosis and could be used for referral. Existing FBC-based prediction models might not perform as well as expected and need further critical testing.

Original publication




Journal article


Cancers (basel)

Publication Date





blood test, bowel cancer, colorectal cancer, complete blood count, full blood count, systematic