BACKGROUND: Inflammation may underlie cancer-related fatigue; however, there are no studies that assess the relation between fatigue and cytokines in patients with advanced disease versus patients without disease activity. Furthermore, the relation between cytokines and the separate dimensions of fatigue is unknown. Here, association of plasma levels of inflammatory markers with physical fatigue and mental fatigue was explored in advanced cancer patients and cancer survivors. METHODS: A total of 45 advanced cancer patients and 47 cancer survivors completed the subscales Physical Fatigue and Mental Fatigue of the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory. Plasma concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1-ra), interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-8 (IL-8), and neopterin were measured. Nonparametric tests were used to assess differences in fatigue intensity and levels of inflammatory markers and to determine correlation coefficients between the fatigue dimensions and inflammatory markers. RESULTS: Compared with cancer survivors, patients with advanced cancer had higher levels of physical fatigue (median 16 vs 9, P < .001) and mental fatigue (median 11 vs 6, P = .01). They also had higher levels of all cytokines (P < .01). In advanced cancer, CRP (r = 0.49, P = .001), IL-6 (r = 0.43, P = .003), IL-1-ra (r = 0.32, P = .03), and neopterin (r = 0.25, P = .10) were correlated with physical but not with mental fatigue. In cancer survivors, only IL-1-ra was related to both physical fatigue (r = 0.24, P = .10) and mental fatigue (r = 0.35, P = .02). CONCLUSIONS: In advanced cancer, inflammation seems to be associated with physical fatigue, but not to mental fatigue. In cancer survivors, there was no convincing evidence that inflammation plays a major role in fatigue. Cancer 2012. (c) 2012 American Cancer Society.