Malignant lung lesions are associated with significant changes in leukocyte concentrations. However, overlap of values between normal subjects and patients with cancer has limited the clinical utility of this determination. To decrease the overlap, 2,000 cells per differential determination were counted, and replicate automated cell counts were performed in blood samples obtained on different mornings between 7 and 9 A.M. Seventy-five patients who presented with undiagnosed lung lesions were analyzed. Benign and malignant lung lesions could be accurately distinguished by either relative granulocyte or lymphocyte counts. With 65.5 percent granulocytes as the cutoff, 86 percent of patients (38 of 44) proved to have lung cancer had higher values, and 97 percent of patients (30 of 31) with benign lesions had lower values. Likewise, with 28 percent lymphocytes as the cutoff, 87 percent of patients with lung cancer (39 of 44) had lower values, and 94 percent of patients (29 of 31) with benign disease had higher values. Relative monocyte counts were not different. Absolute leukocyte concentrations, although different for each group, had considerable overlap and thus were poor discriminators. These data suggest that precise analytical techniques and the use of relative leukocyte concentrations can improve the clinical utility of the leukocyte count as a discriminator of benign and malignant lung lesions.
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