Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Background Multiple myeloma is a haematological cancer characterised by numerous non-specific symptoms leading to diagnostic delay in a large proportion of patients. Aim To identify which blood tests are useful in suggesting or excluding a diagnosis of myeloma. Design and setting A matched case-control study set in UK primary care using routinely collected data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink. Method Symptom prevalence and blood tests were analysed up to 5 years before diagnosis in 2703 cases and 12 157 matched controls. Likelihood ratios (LR) were used to classify tests or their combinations as useful rule-in tests (LR+ = ≥5), or rule-out tests (LR- = ≤0.2). Results Raised plasma viscosity (PV) had an LR+ = 2.0, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.7 to 2.3; erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) 1.9, 95% CI = 1.7 to 2.0; and C-reactive protein (CRP) 1.2, 95% CI = 1.1 to 1.4. A normal haemoglobin had an LR- = 0.42, 95% CI = 0.39 to 0.45; calcium LR- = 0.81, 95% CI = 0.78 to 0.83; and creatinine LR- = 0.80, 95% CI = 0.77 to 0.83. The test combination with the lowest LR- was all normal haemoglobin with calcium and PV, which had an LR- = 0.06, 95% CI = 0.02 to 0.18, though the LR- for normal haemoglobin and PV together was 0.12 (95% CI = 0.07 to 0.23). Conclusion Plasma viscosity and ESR are better for both ruling in and ruling out the disease compared with C-reactive protein. A combination of a normal ESR or PV and normal haemoglobin is a simple rule-out approach for patients currently being tested in primary care.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of General Practice

Publication Date





e586 - e593