Carcinoembryonic antigen

Dr Daniel J Bell and Dr Craig Hacking et al.

Serum carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is a cell-adhesive glycoprotein that was discovered in colorectal cancer in 1965, and is hence one of the oldest and most used tumour markers. Its name derives from its normal expression in fetoembryonic liver, gut and pancreas tissue.

Normal range of CEA is <2.5 ng/mL in adult non-smokers and <5.0 ng/mL in smokers.

Its primary significance is in colorectal cancer:

  • as with most tumour markers it is inappropriate for screening given it poor sensitivity and specificity
  • used routinely for detecting early postoperative recurrence and metastatic disease, especially liver disease
  • also used for monitoring response to treatment of metastatic disease
  • higher levels are associated with
    • higher grade tumours
    • higher stage disease
    • visceral metastases (especially liver metastases)

It can also be found elevated in a number of other malignancies:

Non-neoplastic causes common and include:

See other tumour markers here

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Article information

rID: 42257
Section: Gamuts, Pathology
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)

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