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N Engl J Med. 1978 Aug 31;299(9):448-51.

Preoperative carcinoembryonic antigen level as a prognostic indicator in colorectal cancer.


We examined the relation of carcinoembryonic antigen levels to time, site and extent of recurrence in 358 patients with colorectal cancer. The recurrence rate was higher in patients with Dukes' B and Dukes' C lesions who had preoperative levels higher than 5 ng per milliliter. There was a linear inverse correlation between preoperative levels and estimated mean time to recurrence in patients with Dukes' B and C lesions, ranging from 30 months for a level of 2 to 9.8 months for a level of 70 ng per milliliter. In patients with Dukes' C lesions the median time to recurrence was 13 months if preoperative levels were higher than 5 ng per milliliter, and 28 months if they were lower. Preoperative carcinoembryonic antigen levels in patients with resectable Dukes' B and C cancer provided an additional criterion for allocating these patients to groups at high or low risk for recurrence.

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