White Blood Cell Count information cause and what to do about it
March 15 2016 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

White blood cells or leukocytes are cells of the immune system which defend the body against both infectious disease and foreign materials. White blood cells are found throughout the body, including the blood and lymphatic system.

Cause of elevated white blood cell count
The most common cause of elevated white blood cell count is due to infection. When the white blood cell count is elevated in older individuals for prolonged periods and no infection is present, this can mean an increased risk for cancer.

White blood cells and diet, role of food intake
Diet can influence white blood cell counts and inflammation. diets high in fat (eg, butter or cream), glucose, or mixed carbohydrates and fats increase circulating leukocytes (neutrophils, lymphocytes, and platelets), activate transcription factor nuclear transcription factor {kappa}B (NF-{kappa}B) in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, increase expression of tumor necrosis factor-{alpha} (TNF-{alpha}) in monocytes, and alter some surface adhesion molecules in neutrophils and monocytes (eg, increased surface levels of CD11B, the {alpha}-subunit of one member of the 2 integrin family).

Increased risk for cancer with high blood cell count
Postmenopausal women with elevated white blood cell counts may be at an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, endometrial, and lung cancers. Dr. Karen L. Margolis from HealthPartners Research Foundation, Minneapolis, Minnesota and colleagues studied the relation between the baseline white blood cell count and newly diagnosed breast, colorectal, endometrial, and lung cancers in 143,000 women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI). All of the women were between the ages of 50 and 79 years old, and cancer-free at the outset. Women with the highest white blood cell counts had a 15 percent higher risk of breast cancer, 19 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer, 42 percent higher risk of endometrial cancer, and 63 percent higher risk of lung cancer than did women with the lowest white blood cell counts. Death from breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and lung cancer was higher among women with the highest white blood cell counts (compared with women with the lowest). Archives of Internal Medicine, September 24, 2007.

Blood. 2013. Myeloproliferative neoplasms and thrombosis.B Major causes of morbidity and mortality in myeloproliferative neoplasms are represented by arterial and venous complications, progression to myelofibrosis, and transformation to acute leukemia. The pathogenesis of thrombosis results from a complex interplay of clinical and disease-related factors. Abnormalities of blood cells arising from the clonal proliferation of hematopoietic stem cells involve not only quantitative changes but also qualitative modifications that characterize the switch of these cells from a resting to a procoagulant phenotype.

White blood cell count questions
Q. My wife has a low count of white blood cells in the range from 3.8 to 4.0. She had bone marrow drawn and test done a year ago and no problems were found. the recent blood test was taken about a moth ago and the reading was 3.8. The doctors have not prescribed anything to increase the white blood cell count. Her age is 61 years old. This condition is steady for over a year. Do you know what may cause this condition if there is a name for it?
Do you know of supplements that may be of help?
   A. Low white blood cell count is called leukopenia, however this term is often used when the WBC count is less than 2. Low normal ranges of white blood cell counts may still be normal and most doctors start getting worried if the level drops to less than 2 or 1.5. I am not aware of specific nutritional supplements that cause an increase in white blood cell counts.