Serum CA 125, carcinoembryonic antigen, and CA 19-9 as tumor markers in borderline ovarian tumors

Gynecol Oncol. 2000 Jul;78(1):16-20. doi: 10.1006/gyno.2000.5811.


Objectives: The goals of this study were to analyze preoperative serum levels of CA 125, carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), and CA 19-9 in patients with borderline ovarian tumors and to investigate if routine assessment of these markers in follow-up may lead to earlier detection of recurrence.

Methods: For patient identification a database was used, in which data from all patients treated for gynecologic malignancies in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology, University Hospital Groningen, The Netherlands, are compiled. Between 1982 and 1997, 44 patients with borderline ovarian tumors were identified. Clinical data and serum CA-125 and CEA levels were retrieved from the database. CA 19-9 levels were determined in retrospect in available stored preoperative (24 patients) and follow-up (43 patients) serum samples.

Results: Preoperative CA 125 levels were elevated in 8 of 33 (24%), CEA levels in 3 of 32 (9%), and CA 19-9 levels in 11 of 24 (46%) cases. In patients with mucinous tumors preoperative CA 19-9 was more frequently elevated (8/14, 57%) than CA 125 (3/20, 15%) (P = 0.02) or CEA (2/18, 11%) (P = 0.02). Complete follow-up serum CA 125, CEA, and CA 19-9 levels were available for 43 of 44 patients. Median follow-up was 84 months (range, 22-204). During follow-up two patients (5%) had recurrent disease. In one patient CA 125 became elevated at the time of recurrence; in the other patient (in retrospect) the CA 19-9 level did not return to normal after surgery, but kept rising, preceding clinical symptoms of recurrence for 13 months.

Conclusions: If one chooses to use serum markers in follow-up of mucinous borderline ovarian tumors CA 19-9 should be included. Measurement of serum tumor markers in the follow-up of patients with borderline ovarian tumors may lead to earlier detection of recurrence in only a very small proportion of patients, while the clinical value of earlier detection of recurrence remains to be established.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Mucinous / immunology
  • Adenocarcinoma, Mucinous / pathology*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Mucinous / surgery
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • CA-125 Antigen / blood*
  • CA-19-9 Antigen / blood*
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen / blood*
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / immunology
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / pathology*
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / surgery
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / immunology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / surgery
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CA-125 Antigen
  • CA-19-9 Antigen
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen