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The association between the neutrophil-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) and outcome in elective colorectal cancer surgery is well established; the relationship between NLR and the emergency colorectal cancer patient is, as yet, unexplored. This paper evaluates the predictive quality of the NLR for outcome in the emergency colorectal cancer patient.A total of 187 consecutive patients who underwent emergency surgery for colorectal cancer were included in the study. NLR was calculated from the haematological tests done on admission. Receiver operating characteristic analyses were used to determine the most suitable cut-off for NLR. Outcomes were assessed by mortality at 30 and 90 days using stepwise Cox proportional hazards regression.An NLR cut-off of 5 was found to have the highest sensitivity and specificity. At 30 days, age and time from admission to surgery were associated with increased mortality; a high NLR was associated with an increased risk of mortality in univariate but not multivariate analysis. At 90 days, age, NLR, time from admission to surgery and nodal status were all significantly associated with increased mortality on multivariate analysis.Pre-operative NLR is a cheap, easily performed and useful clinical tool to aid prediction of outcome in the emergency colorectal cancer patient.