Serum protein induced by vitamin K absence or antagonist II (PIVKAII), hepatoma-specific band of serum gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGTII), and alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels were determined in 120 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and 90 patients with cirrhosis. The mean serum concentration of PIVKAII in HCC patients was higher than that in cirrhotic patients. A total of 53.3% of patients (64 out of 120) with HCC had PIVKAII levels above 40 mAU ml(-1). However, only 13 patients with cirrhosis had higher PIVKA II levels. Of 32 small HCC patients, 13 (40.6%) had PIVKAII values above 40 mAU ml(-1). An increased concentration of AFP (i.e. 20 ng ml(-1)) was observed in 70 out of 120 (58.3%) patients with HCC and in 33 out of 90 (36.7%) patients with cirrhosis. Positive GGTII was found in 74.0% (89 out of 120) cases of HCC (sensitivity), in 16 of 90 cases of cirrhosis, and 14 of 32 (43.8%) small HCC patients had GGTII positive. No significant correlation was found between serum levels of AFP and PIVKAII. Combining the information from PIVKAII, AFP, and GGTII significantly increases the sensitivity over AFP alone. PIVKAII and GGTII are useful tumour markers complementary to AFP for diagnosis of HCC.