Heart disease, cancer, strokes and death from lung conditions are all connected by an inflammation marker present in the blood, according to research.
Scientists have found that higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), while not thought to be a cause of disease, may indicate an increased risk of other health problems in the body.
The protein is known as a sensitive indicator of inflammation which can damage tissues, and previous studies implied it could be comparable with cholesterol levels for warning of heart attack risks.
By combining data from 54 long-term studies, which researched more than 160,000 in 18 countries, scientists led by Professor John Danesh from Cambridge University showed high concentrations of the liver-produced protein were connected to the future risk of heart, artery and lung disease, as well as strokes and several cancers.
This research technique is known as meta-analysis, and can reveal previously unnoticed trends.
The study authors wrote in the online version of medical journal The Lancet: “CRP concentration has continuous associations with the risk of coronary heart disease, ischaemic (cutting off blood supply) stroke, vascular mortality and death from several cancers and lung disease that are each of broadly similar size.”