Circulating microRNA (miRNA) is a major focus in liquid biopsy studies. The circulating levels of certain miRNAs have been suggested to reflect specific physiological conditions, and several studies have reported their potential use as biomarkers for the detection and prognosis of cancer, as well as for predicting responses to chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Alongside these biomarker studies, research into the effects of specific background factors on circulating miRNA levels is progressing. Indeed, several studies have shown that a number of factors, including blood sample collection and processing methods, as well as subject-specific factors such as age, sex, and other physiological conditions, can affect the normal levels of circulating miRNAs. Unfortunately, the evidence supporting these effects is not yet strong enough to support a definite conclusion and further research is warranted. Here, we summarize the findings of several studies that have addressed these concerns and identify important topics that should be considered when analyzing circulating miRNA levels in liquid biopsy studies.
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