Background: Although preoperative lymphopenia is reportedly a prognostic factor in cancer patients, the association between postoperative lymphopenia and patient prognosis has not been widely studied. Methods: We enrolled 352 patients who underwent surgery for gastric cancer (GC) between January 2005 and April 2013 to analyze correlations among pre- and postoperative lymphocyte counts (LCs) and prognosis in GC patients. Results: Pre- and postoperative (obtained 1 day after surgery) LCs were significantly correlated (r = 0.496, p < 0.0001). Pre- and postoperative LCs of elderly patients were significantly lower than those of non-elderly patients. Postoperative lymphocyte count was significantly lower in patients with a differentiated tumor than in those with an undifferentiated tumor. Based on the results of receiver operating characteristic analysis, patients were classified into subgroups as: preoperative LC ≥1,676 (pre-LC High ), preoperative LC <1,676 (pre-LC Low ); and as postoperative LC ≥855 (post-LC High ), and postoperative LC <855 (post-LC Low ). Five-year overall survival rates significantly differed between pre-LC High (82.5%) and pre-LC Low (71.6%) groups (p = 0.023); and also between the post-LC High (81.5%) and post-LC Low (69.5%) groups (p = 0.0072). The 5-year disease specific survival rates were 91.3 and 82.4% in patients with post-LC High and those with post-LC Low , respectively, and differences were statistically significant (p = 0.015). Multivariate analysis indicated that postoperative lymphocyte count was an independent prognostic indicator, along with age, gender, tumor size, lymph node metastasis, and venous invasion. Conclusions: Postoperative lymphocyte count is a useful predictive factor for prognosis in GC patients.
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