CA 19-9 is used as a tumour marker of the upper gastrointestinal tract. However, extremely elevated CA 19-9 levels are found also in patients with benign diseases. Cholestasis was present in 97.1% of patients with high elevated CA 19-9, independent of their primary disease. 50% of patients with non-malignant diseases and increased CA 19-9 levels showed liver cirrhosis, cholecystitis, pancreatitis and/or hepatitis. In 8.8% no explanation was found for the extremely high CA 19-9 level. The results provide evidence of different factors influencing the CA 19-9 level.