Current cigarette smoking is a reversible cause of elevated white blood cell count: Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies

Takakazu Higuchi, Fumio Omata, Kenji Tsuchihashi, Kazuhiko Higashioka, Ryosuke Koyamada, Sadamu Okada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


While cigarette smoking is a well-recognized cause of elevated white blood cell (WBC) count, studies on longitudinal effect of smoking cessation on WBC count are limited. We attempted to determine causal relationships between smoking and elevated WBC count by retrospective cross-sectional study consisting of 37,972 healthy Japanese adults who had a health check-up between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009 and longitudinal study involving 1730 current smokers who had more than four consecutive annual health check-ups between April 1, 2007 and March 31, 2012. In the cross-sectional study, younger age, male gender, increased body mass index, no alcohol habit, current smoking, and elevated C-reactive protein level were associated with elevated WBC count. Among these factors, current smoking had the most significant association with elevated WBC count. In subgroup analyses by WBC differentials, smoking was significantly associated with elevated counts of neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils. Ex-smoking was not associated with elevated WBC count. In the longitudinal study, both WBC and neutrophil counts decreased significantly in one year after smoking cessation and remained down-regulated for longer than next two years. There was no significant change in either WBC or neutrophil count in those who continued smoking. These findings clearly demonstrated that current smoking is strongly associated with elevated WBC count and smoking cessation leads to recovery of WBC count in one year, which is maintained for longer than subsequent two years. Thus, current smoking is a significant and reversible cause of elevated WBC count in healthy adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-422
Number of pages6
JournalPreventive Medicine Reports
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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