TUESDAY, Dec. 22, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers are linking levels of a protein that indicates tissue inflammation in the body to future risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer and chronic lung disease.
But the association may be the result of other risk factors related to heart disease, such as smoking, rather than the protein itself, researchers said.
The molecule, known as C-reactive protein (CRP), is produced by the liver and indicates that tissues are inflamed because of injury. Some research has suggested that CRP levels might be as important a cause of heart attacks as cholesterol in the blood.
In a new study released this week, researchers led by John Danesh of the University of Cambridge looked over findings from 54 research projects that analyzed more than 160,000 people in 18 countries.
The researchers report that other factors -- such as smoking, obesity and cholesterol levels better explain links between CRP and heart disease.
More research is needed, they write, partly "to assess whether evidence of low-grade inflammation mainly indicates external triggers (e.g., socioeconomic position or infection), insulin resistance, hereditary predisposition, or some combination of such factors."
The study was published Dec. 22 in The Lancet.
Learn more about heart disease from the CDC.