We evaluated 109 women with endometrial carcinoma to determine the accuracy of preoperative tumor-associated antigen levels (CA 125, CA 72, CA 15-3) for prediction of extrauterine disease and whether TAG 72, CA 15-3, or both would improve the predictive value of CA 125 alone. Eleven (12%) of 80 patients with disease confined to the uterus or positive cytologic findings had CA 125 values greater than 35 U/ml versus 12 (65%) of 20 patients with extrauterine metastasis. Therefore CA 125 values had sensitivity of 65% and specificity of 88%. The TAG 72 level was elevated (greater than 6 U/ml) in 4% of patients with localized disease and 30% with metastasis. CA 15-3 was elevated (greater than 30 U/ml) in 17% and 65% in these categories, respectively. TAG 72 or CA 15-3 levels did not improve the combination of sensitivity and specificity of CA 125 alone. In addition, only one of 10 patients with microscopic metastasis (three cases) or positive peritoneal cytology (seven) had elevation of any of these tumor-associated antigen levels. Failure to detect occult metastasis and a high false-positive rate limit the role of these tumor-associated antigen assays in the preoperative evaluation of patients with endometrial carcinoma.