Send to

Choose Destination
Eur J Surg Oncol. 2000 Aug;26(5):474-9.

Elevated tumour marker CA19-9: clinical interpretation and influence of obstructive jaundice.

Author information

Department of Surgery, St Mary's Hospital, London, UK.



The tumour marker CA19-9 has been promoted as a reliable test for the detection of pancreatobiliary malignancy, yet its diagnostic role remains poorly defined. In this study the clinical interpretation of a raised serum CA19-9 level has been evaluated, with particular reference to obstructive jaundice.


One hundred and sixty-four patients with a CA19-9 level above 33 U/ml were studied. Serum CA19-9 was compared with clinical diagnosis and correlated with serum bilirubin level. In a subgroup of jaundiced patients (16 benign and 15 malignant cases), follow-up CA19-9 levels were determined 2 weeks after biliary drainage.


The median CA19-9 level was lower in benign cases (102 (IQR 50-264) U/ml) than those with pancreatobiliary tumours (910 (IQR 263-6170) U/ml; P<0.01), although the overlap was substantial. In benign jaundiced cases, a positive correlation was observed between bilirubin and CA19-9 elevation (R=0.41, P<0.01). Relief of jaundice was associated with a fall in CA19-9 level in all benign cases and in nine of the 15 with malignancy.


Confident discrimination between benign and malignant disease could not be made on the basis of a solitary elevated CA19-9 measurement. Hyperbilirubinaemia was associated with a further deterioration in specificity and caution is warranted when interpreting the results in jaundiced patients. Overall, only one half of patients with an elevated CA19-9 level ultimately proved to harbour a malignancy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center