Longitudinal relation between smoking and white blood cells

Jordi Sunyer, Alvaro Muñoz, Yun Peng, Joseph Margolick, Joan S. Chmiel, John Oishi, Lawrence Kingsley, Jonathan M. Samet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Higher white blood cell counts in smokers compared with nonsmokers have been well documented, but the longitudinal relation between changes in smoking and changes in white blood cells has not been well described. Since 1984, data have been collected semiannually by the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS), a four-center prospective cohort study of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in homosexual men. The study population includes 2,435 participants who were human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) seronegative as of September 1994 and who contributed 20,918 person-visits for this analysis. For individuals who modified their smoking behavior, changes in white blood cell counts occurred primarily during the first 8 months following changes in the amount of cigarettes smoked. Among former smokers who resumed smoking, the extent of the increase in white blood cell count depended on the number of cigarettes smoked. Specifically, increases of 241, 340, and 740 cells/μliter were observed for smokers who resumed smoking <1, 1 to <2, and ≤2 packs/day, respectively. Conversely, smokers who quit smoking had a decrease of white blood cell count: -32, -629, and -1,122 cells/μliter for men who previously smoked <1, 1 to <2, and ≤2 packs/day, respectively. Long-term ex-smokers, however, still had higher white blood cell counts than did never smokers. There was a high within-individual correlation of white blood cell count in persons who reported a consistent level of smoking (i.e., average correlations between two white blood cell counts 6 years apart were 0.51 for never smokers, 0.48 for ex-smokers, 0.56 for men who smoked <1 pack/day, and 0.43 for men who smoked ≤1 pack/day). These analyses indicate an acute effect of changes in smoking on changes in white blood cell count, a residual effect of having been a smoker, and high long-term tracking for white blood cell count.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)734-741
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 15 1996


  • leukocytes
  • longitudinal studies
  • smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


Dive into the research topics of 'Longitudinal relation between smoking and white blood cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this