Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA)

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-03-24 (EDT)

See Also Lab Tests

Carcinoembryonic antigen or CEA is a protein normally found in fetal gut tissue. Detectable serum levels normally disappear by birth. However, CEA found in adults is used as a tumor marker for determining the extent of disease and prognosis in patients with cancer, particularly gastrointestinal or breast. It is also used in monitoring the disease and its treatment.[1], [2]


  • CEA is found in patients with a variety of carcinomas.
  • Chronic smokers have also been found to have elevated CEA levels.
  • A steadily rising CEA level is often the first sign of tumor recurrence.
  • CEA can also be detected in body fluids other than blood which can be indicative of metastasis.

Patient Preparation

  • No fasting is required.
  • Factors which can cause increased levels:
  • smoking, benign diseases (e.g. cholecystitis, colitis, diverticulitis) and especially liver diseases (e.g. hepatitis, cirrhosis)
  • Factors which can cause decreased levels:
  • None noted

Clinical Implications

High levels indicate:

Associated Tests


  1. Pagana Kathleen D, Pagana Timothy J (2006) Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, Mosby, Inc
  2. Weatherby Dicken, Ferguson Scott (2002) Blood Chemistry and CBC Analysis: Clinical Laboratory Testing from a Functional Perspective, Bear Mountain.