Blood test

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High CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) in a blood test

Blood test
High CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) in a blood test
Last update: 03/06/2021

What is a high CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) in a blood test called?

  • High CEA

What is the normal CEA in a blood test?

If you need to know which are the CEA reference ranges or you require more information about CEA in a blood test, you can visit normal CEA in a blood test.

What does a high CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) mean?

Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) can be higher than the normal range in a blood test for the following reasons:

  • Cancer: It is a tumor marker and raises in the presence of a malignant tumor. It is elevated in more than 90% cases of colon and pancreatic cancer, 70% cases of non-small cell lung cancer, and 50% cases of breast cancer.
  • In inflammatory bowel diseases (ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, Crohn's, etc.).
  • Liver disease (cirrhosis, hepatitis, etc.).

Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is not specific for any disease and it should not be used for cancer diagnosis. It is most useful as a marker to determine the effectiveness of the treatment for a gastrointestinal cancer (colon, rectum, gastric, etc.).

If it returns to normal range after the tumor is properly treated or surgically removed (4-6 weeks) is a sign of good prognosis. If it does not return to normal range it is suggestive of metastasis (to the liver) or incomplete resection.

  • Mild CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) increase (5 - 10 ng/ml in adults):

    With a mild CEA increase, it is interesting to know if the patient is a smoker or not because tobacco increases the CEA level in the blood. In heavy smokers, values up to 10 ng/ml may be considered in the normal range.

    In addition, some studies done in general population suggest that 5% of healthy people have a mild CEA increase in the blood without a concrete cause.

    If you are not suffering any disease and the others parameters of the blood test are in the normal range it is not usually a matter to concern. You can talk to your doctor about it.

  • Moderate CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) increase (10 - 20 ng/ml in adults):

    A moderate CEA increase requires a visit to your doctor to study the possible causes.

    A large number of malignant tumors can increase the carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) level in the blood.

    There are also some benign conditions that may increase the CEA level in the blood such as inflammatory bowel diseases (ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, etc.) or liver diseases (cirrhosis, hepatitis, etc.).

  • Severe CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) increase (> 20 ng/ml in adults):

    A severe CEA increase is usually a sign of a malignant tumor (colorectal or pancreatic cancer). It is necessary a visit to your doctor to get a proper treatment.

    If the CEA blood test is performed after a treatment for cancer, such as colorectal cancer, a severe CEA increase is a sign of a poor prognosis. It may suggest a relapse of the cancer or metastasis. A CEA value over 100 ng/ml is usually a sign of metastasis.

Which factors can raise the CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) in a blood test?

There are some health circumstances or drugs than can raise the CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) in a blood test:

  • Pregnancy
  • Chemotherapy
  • X-ray
  • Tobacco
  • Injury
  • Drugs
    • Anticoagulants
      • Heparin
    • Antineoplastic drugs
      • Fluorouracil
    • Sodium butyrate
    • Staurosporine

Which diseases can raise your CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) in a blood test?

The most common diseases why the CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) can be higher than normal are:

What can I do to lower the CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) in a blood test?

If CEA is a bit high in a blood test and you want to lower the level the first step is to give up smoking. Tobacco is one of the main causes for a CEA elevation in the blood.

Where can I find more information about CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) in a blood test?

You can visit our pages about:

Which values are considered a high CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) in a blood test?

The following values are considered to be above the normal range:

IMPORTANT: These levels are expressed in ng/ml. They are an example of a healthy non-smoker man/woman of about 40 years old with no known disease and not taking any medication. The ranges can be different depending on the laboratory or on your personal circumstances.

CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen)
Mild CEA increase
5.1 ng/ml5.2 ng/ml5.3 ng/ml5.4 ng/ml5.5 ng/ml5.6 ng/ml5.7 ng/ml5.8 ng/ml
5.9 ng/ml6 ng/ml6.1 ng/ml6.2 ng/ml6.3 ng/ml6.4 ng/ml6.5 ng/ml6.6 ng/ml
6.7 ng/ml6.8 ng/ml6.9 ng/ml7 ng/ml7.1 ng/ml7.2 ng/ml7.3 ng/ml7.4 ng/ml
7.5 ng/ml7.6 ng/ml7.7 ng/ml7.8 ng/ml7.9 ng/ml8 ng/ml8.1 ng/ml8.2 ng/ml
8.3 ng/ml8.4 ng/ml8.5 ng/ml8.6 ng/ml8.7 ng/ml8.8 ng/ml8.9 ng/ml9 ng/ml
9.1 ng/ml9.2 ng/ml9.3 ng/ml9.4 ng/ml9.5 ng/ml9.6 ng/ml9.7 ng/ml9.8 ng/ml
9.9 ng/ml10 ng/ml      
Moderate CEA increase
10.1 ng/ml10.2 ng/ml10.3 ng/ml10.4 ng/ml10.5 ng/ml10.6 ng/ml10.7 ng/ml10.8 ng/ml
10.9 ng/ml11 ng/ml11.1 ng/ml11.2 ng/ml11.3 ng/ml11.4 ng/ml11.5 ng/ml11.6 ng/ml
11.7 ng/ml11.8 ng/ml11.9 ng/ml12 ng/ml12.1 ng/ml12.2 ng/ml12.3 ng/ml12.4 ng/ml
12.5 ng/ml12.6 ng/ml12.7 ng/ml12.8 ng/ml12.9 ng/ml13 ng/ml13.1 ng/ml13.2 ng/ml
13.3 ng/ml13.4 ng/ml13.5 ng/ml13.6 ng/ml13.7 ng/ml13.8 ng/ml13.9 ng/ml14 ng/ml
14.1 ng/ml14.2 ng/ml14.3 ng/ml14.4 ng/ml14.5 ng/ml14.6 ng/ml14.7 ng/ml14.8 ng/ml
14.9 ng/ml15 ng/ml15.1 ng/ml15.2 ng/ml15.3 ng/ml15.4 ng/ml15.5 ng/ml15.6 ng/ml
15.7 ng/ml15.8 ng/ml15.9 ng/ml16 ng/ml16.1 ng/ml16.2 ng/ml16.3 ng/ml16.4 ng/ml
16.5 ng/ml16.6 ng/ml16.7 ng/ml16.8 ng/ml16.9 ng/ml17 ng/ml17.1 ng/ml17.2 ng/ml
17.3 ng/ml17.4 ng/ml17.5 ng/ml17.6 ng/ml17.7 ng/ml17.8 ng/ml17.9 ng/ml18 ng/ml
18.1 ng/ml18.2 ng/ml18.3 ng/ml18.4 ng/ml18.5 ng/ml18.6 ng/ml18.7 ng/ml18.8 ng/ml
18.9 ng/ml19 ng/ml19.1 ng/ml19.2 ng/ml19.3 ng/ml19.4 ng/ml19.5 ng/ml19.6 ng/ml
19.7 ng/ml19.8 ng/ml19.9 ng/ml20 ng/ml    
Severe CEA increase
20.1 ng/ml20.2 ng/ml20.3 ng/ml20.4 ng/ml20.5 ng/ml20.6 ng/ml20.7 ng/ml20.8 ng/ml
20.9 ng/ml21 ng/ml21.1 ng/ml21.2 ng/ml21.3 ng/ml21.4 ng/ml21.5 ng/ml21.6 ng/ml
21.7 ng/ml21.8 ng/ml21.9 ng/ml22 ng/ml22.1 ng/ml22.2 ng/ml22.3 ng/ml22.4 ng/ml
22.5 ng/ml22.6 ng/ml22.7 ng/ml22.8 ng/ml22.9 ng/ml23 ng/ml23.1 ng/ml23.2 ng/ml
23.3 ng/ml23.4 ng/ml23.5 ng/ml23.6 ng/ml23.7 ng/ml23.8 ng/ml23.9 ng/ml24 ng/ml
24.1 ng/ml24.2 ng/ml24.3 ng/ml24.4 ng/ml24.5 ng/ml24.6 ng/ml24.7 ng/ml24.8 ng/ml
24.9 ng/ml25 ng/ml25.1 ng/ml25.2 ng/ml25.3 ng/ml25.4 ng/ml25.5 ng/ml25.6 ng/ml
25.7 ng/ml25.8 ng/ml25.9 ng/ml26 ng/ml26.1 ng/ml26.2 ng/ml26.3 ng/ml26.4 ng/ml
26.5 ng/ml26.6 ng/ml26.7 ng/ml26.8 ng/ml26.9 ng/ml27 ng/ml27.1 ng/ml27.2 ng/ml
27.3 ng/ml27.4 ng/ml27.5 ng/ml27.6 ng/ml27.7 ng/ml27.8 ng/ml27.9 ng/ml28 ng/ml
28.1 ng/ml28.2 ng/ml28.3 ng/ml28.4 ng/ml28.5 ng/ml28.6 ng/ml28.7 ng/ml28.8 ng/ml
28.9 ng/ml29 ng/ml29.1 ng/ml29.2 ng/ml29.3 ng/ml29.4 ng/ml29.5 ng/ml29.6 ng/ml
29.7 ng/ml29.8 ng/ml29.9 ng/ml30 ng/ml30.1 ng/ml30.2 ng/ml30.3 ng/ml30.4 ng/ml
30.5 ng/ml30.6 ng/ml30.7 ng/ml30.8 ng/ml30.9 ng/ml31 ng/ml31.1 ng/ml31.2 ng/ml
31.3 ng/ml31.4 ng/ml31.5 ng/ml31.6 ng/ml31.7 ng/ml31.8 ng/ml31.9 ng/ml32 ng/ml
32.1 ng/ml32.2 ng/ml32.3 ng/ml32.4 ng/ml32.5 ng/ml32.6 ng/ml32.7 ng/ml32.8 ng/ml
32.9 ng/ml33 ng/ml33.1 ng/ml33.2 ng/ml33.3 ng/ml33.4 ng/ml33.5 ng/ml33.6 ng/ml
33.7 ng/ml33.8 ng/ml33.9 ng/ml34 ng/ml34.1 ng/ml34.2 ng/ml34.3 ng/ml34.4 ng/ml
34.5 ng/ml34.6 ng/ml34.7 ng/ml34.8 ng/ml34.9 ng/ml35 ng/ml35.1 ng/ml35.2 ng/ml
35.3 ng/ml35.4 ng/ml35.5 ng/ml35.6 ng/ml35.7 ng/ml35.8 ng/ml35.9 ng/ml36 ng/ml
36.1 ng/ml36.2 ng/ml36.3 ng/ml36.4 ng/ml36.5 ng/ml36.6 ng/ml36.7 ng/ml36.8 ng/ml
36.9 ng/ml37 ng/ml37.1 ng/ml37.2 ng/ml37.3 ng/ml37.4 ng/ml37.5 ng/ml37.6 ng/ml
37.7 ng/ml37.8 ng/ml37.9 ng/ml38 ng/ml38.1 ng/ml38.2 ng/ml38.3 ng/ml38.4 ng/ml
38.5 ng/ml38.6 ng/ml38.7 ng/ml38.8 ng/ml38.9 ng/ml39 ng/ml39.1 ng/ml39.2 ng/ml
39.3 ng/ml39.4 ng/ml39.5 ng/ml39.6 ng/ml39.7 ng/ml39.8 ng/ml39.9 ng/ml40 ng/ml
40.1 ng/ml40.2 ng/ml40.3 ng/ml40.4 ng/ml40.5 ng/ml40.6 ng/ml40.7 ng/ml40.8 ng/ml
40.9 ng/ml41 ng/ml41.1 ng/ml41.2 ng/ml41.3 ng/ml41.4 ng/ml41.5 ng/ml41.6 ng/ml
41.7 ng/ml41.8 ng/ml41.9 ng/ml42 ng/ml42.1 ng/ml42.2 ng/ml42.3 ng/ml42.4 ng/ml
42.5 ng/ml42.6 ng/ml42.7 ng/ml42.8 ng/ml42.9 ng/ml43 ng/ml43.1 ng/ml43.2 ng/ml
43.3 ng/ml43.4 ng/ml43.5 ng/ml43.6 ng/ml43.7 ng/ml43.8 ng/ml43.9 ng/ml44 ng/ml
44.1 ng/ml44.2 ng/ml44.3 ng/ml44.4 ng/ml44.5 ng/ml44.6 ng/ml44.7 ng/ml44.8 ng/ml
44.9 ng/ml45 ng/ml45.1 ng/ml45.2 ng/ml45.3 ng/ml45.4 ng/ml45.5 ng/ml45.6 ng/ml
45.7 ng/ml45.8 ng/ml45.9 ng/ml46 ng/ml46.1 ng/ml46.2 ng/ml46.3 ng/ml46.4 ng/ml
46.5 ng/ml46.6 ng/ml46.7 ng/ml46.8 ng/ml46.9 ng/ml47 ng/ml47.1 ng/ml47.2 ng/ml
47.3 ng/ml47.4 ng/ml47.5 ng/ml47.6 ng/ml47.7 ng/ml47.8 ng/ml47.9 ng/ml48 ng/ml
48.1 ng/ml48.2 ng/ml48.3 ng/ml48.4 ng/ml48.5 ng/ml48.6 ng/ml48.7 ng/ml48.8 ng/ml
48.9 ng/ml49 ng/ml49.1 ng/ml49.2 ng/ml49.3 ng/ml49.4 ng/ml49.5 ng/ml49.6 ng/ml
49.7 ng/ml49.8 ng/ml49.9 ng/ml50 ng/ml50.1 ng/ml50.2 ng/ml50.3 ng/ml50.4 ng/ml
50.5 ng/ml50.6 ng/ml50.7 ng/ml50.8 ng/ml50.9 ng/ml51 ng/ml51.1 ng/ml51.2 ng/ml
51.3 ng/ml51.4 ng/ml51.5 ng/ml51.6 ng/ml51.7 ng/ml51.8 ng/ml51.9 ng/ml52 ng/ml
52.1 ng/ml52.2 ng/ml52.3 ng/ml52.4 ng/ml52.5 ng/ml52.6 ng/ml52.7 ng/ml52.8 ng/ml
52.9 ng/ml53 ng/ml53.1 ng/ml53.2 ng/ml53.3 ng/ml53.4 ng/ml53.5 ng/ml53.6 ng/ml
53.7 ng/ml53.8 ng/ml53.9 ng/ml54 ng/ml54.1 ng/ml54.2 ng/ml54.3 ng/ml54.4 ng/ml
54.5 ng/ml54.6 ng/ml54.7 ng/ml54.8 ng/ml54.9 ng/ml55 ng/ml55.1 ng/ml55.2 ng/ml
55.3 ng/ml55.4 ng/ml55.5 ng/ml55.6 ng/ml55.7 ng/ml55.8 ng/ml55.9 ng/ml56 ng/ml
56.1 ng/ml56.2 ng/ml56.3 ng/ml56.4 ng/ml56.5 ng/ml56.6 ng/ml56.7 ng/ml56.8 ng/ml
56.9 ng/ml57 ng/ml57.1 ng/ml57.2 ng/ml57.3 ng/ml57.4 ng/ml57.5 ng/ml57.6 ng/ml
57.7 ng/ml57.8 ng/ml57.9 ng/ml58 ng/ml58.1 ng/ml58.2 ng/ml58.3 ng/ml58.4 ng/ml
Medically reviewed by our Medical staff on 03/06/2021


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  • Concise Book of Medical Laboratory Technology: Methods and Interpretations. 2nd Edition. 2015. Ramnik Sood. ISBN: 978-93-5152-333-8. Pag. 685.
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