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A longitudinal study based on a serum sample bank was carried out in Finland to find out the association between biochemical substances and the subsequent risk of cancer. The objective was to evaluate the consistency between means of individually estimated levels of these compounds and levels based on pooling. Levels of alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene, retinol, retinol-binding protein, and ceruloplasmin were estimated by primary site and sex and partly by age and morphology. The concentrations in pooled samples were consistently lower than the averages of the individual samples. On the basis of individual samples, all the five biochemical compounds had a rather consistent protective effect on the risk of cancers at most primary sites. This protective effect disappeared in the pool analyses, and more than half of exposure contrasts showed an opposite sign. For ceruloplasmin, the effect of pooling was smaller but not negligible. The results of this study emphasize the demand to standardize the collecting, handling, and analysing of samples in serum banks. They are, furthermore, consistent with the hypothesis that pooling of biochemical samples affects the levels of the substances and may affect the conclusions of epidemiological studies on causes of diseases.

Original publication




Journal article


Acta Oncol

Publication Date





667 - 674


Biomarkers, Tumor, Female, Hematologic Tests, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Neoplasms, Risk Factors