Cancer antigen 125 associated with multiple benign and malignant pathologies

Ann Surg Oncol. 2003 Mar;10(2):150-4. doi: 10.1245/aso.2003.05.015.


Background: Cancer antigen (CA) 125 tumor-associated antigen is a high molecular glycoprotein used for follow-up of epithelial ovarian cancer. The test is often requested as a differential diagnosis in patients with pleural or peritoneal fluid. This study analyzes the prevalence of CA-125 increases in a population of patients attending a general hospital and discusses the possible clinical implications of increased levels.

Methods: On 4 different days, 380 CA-125 assays were performed in randomly selected patients attending our hospital. Serum CA-125 was measured with a commercial enzyme immunoassay, and clinical records were reviewed for assessment of clinical parameters.

Results: Sixty-one patients (16%) had increased CA-125. The pathologies of these patients were heart failure in 9 (14.7%), lung disease 11 (18%), hepatic cirrhosis in 7 (11.4%), malignant tumors in 9 (14.7%), intra-abdominal nonhepatic disease in 6 (10%), previous surgery in 17 (27.8%), and miscellaneous in 2 (3%). Effusions were seen in 34 patients (55.7%).

Conclusions: Our data confirm the variety of benign and malignant pathologies coursing with increased CA-125. Cardiovascular and chronic liver disease were the most frequent diagnoses in patients with increased CA-125; this supports the opinion that CA-125 lacks utility as a marker for malignancy. CA-125 could have a role in the follow-up of cardiovascular, hepatic, and tumoral diseases with serosal involvement.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ascites / blood*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • CA-125 Antigen / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / blood
  • Pleural Effusion / blood*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CA-125 Antigen