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Normal Alpha-Fetoprotein AFP in a blood test

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Normal Alpha-Fetoprotein AFP in a blood test
Last update: 06/07/2021

What is the normal value of alpha-fetoprotein AFP in a blood test?

The normal range of alpha-fetoprotein is expressed in ng/ml:

Adults: 0.6 - 8.5 ng/ml

Why normal levels can differ across different labs?

Each laboratory must establish its own normal range for alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) in a blood test. These ranges depend on the makeup of the local population, the technologies used and the accuracy of the measurement. There may be also slight differences in the normal levels according to age, gender, race or ethnic origin, geographic region, diet, type of sample and other relevant status.

Your doctor will study the results along with your medical record, screenings, physical condition, symptoms and any other relevant information about your situation.

During pregnancy, AFP blood concentrations can reach a peak level of up to 10 mg/ml (10,000 times more than normal) at 12 weeks of gestation. This peak level gradually decreases to less than 25 ng/mL after 1 year of postpartum and finally it is reduced to a normal range (less than 10 ng/mL).

What does alpha-fetoprotein AFP mean?

Alpha-Fetoprotein, α-Fetoprotein or AFP is a glycoprotein with a molecular weight of 70 kDA.

Alpha-Fetoprotein (AFP) is present at pregnancy during the fetal development and it is produced by the hepatocytes and the yolk sac. It gradually decreases after the partum. To a lesser extent, AFP is also produced by the gastrointestinal tract and the kidneys.

Alpha-Fetoprotein (AFP) is the main protein present in fetal serum.

What is the alpha-fetoprotein AFP test used for?

The alpha-fetoprotein AFP blood test is usually performed for two main purposes:

  • In pregnancy: The test for AFP is performed on amniotic fluid to detect specific congenital defects. The test is usually done in the 15th - 20th week of gestation
    • Levels greater than the reference values may indicate a neural tube defect in the fetus, such as spina bifida or anencephaly. It may be also due to multiple fetuses or because the incorrect estimation of gestational age.
    • The AFP is also used with two other tests, estriol and hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), to assess for Down syndrome.
  • As a tumor marker: It is elevated in case of suffering a type of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma or in case of suffering testicular cancer.

When it is used as a tumor marker AFP has a low clinical sensitivity and specificity. It means that it should not be used to diagnose liver or testicular cancer because AFP levels may be also elevated in a number of benign diseases, including ataxia–telangiectasia or non-malignant liver diseases such as hepatitis and cirrhosis.

AFP can also be used to monitor the treatment of a liver or testicular cancer. If the values gradually decrease, it is a sign that the treatment is being effective.

Where can I find more information about alpha-fetoprotein AFP in a blood test?

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Which values are considered a normal alpha-fetoprotein AFP in a blood test?

The following values are considered to be normal values:

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

Alpha-fetoprotein AFP
Normality
0.6 ng/ml0.7 ng/ml0.8 ng/ml0.9 ng/ml1 ng/ml1.1 ng/ml1.2 ng/ml1.3 ng/ml
1.4 ng/ml1.5 ng/ml1.6 ng/ml1.7 ng/ml1.8 ng/ml1.9 ng/ml2 ng/ml2.1 ng/ml
2.2 ng/ml2.3 ng/ml2.4 ng/ml2.5 ng/ml2.6 ng/ml2.7 ng/ml2.8 ng/ml2.9 ng/ml
3 ng/ml3.1 ng/ml3.2 ng/ml3.3 ng/ml3.4 ng/ml3.5 ng/ml3.6 ng/ml3.7 ng/ml
3.8 ng/ml3.9 ng/ml4 ng/ml4.1 ng/ml4.2 ng/ml4.3 ng/ml4.4 ng/ml4.5 ng/ml
4.6 ng/ml4.7 ng/ml4.8 ng/ml4.9 ng/ml5 ng/ml5.1 ng/ml5.2 ng/ml5.3 ng/ml
5.4 ng/ml5.5 ng/ml5.6 ng/ml5.7 ng/ml5.8 ng/ml5.9 ng/ml6 ng/ml6.1 ng/ml
6.2 ng/ml6.3 ng/ml6.4 ng/ml6.5 ng/ml6.6 ng/ml6.7 ng/ml6.8 ng/ml6.9 ng/ml
7 ng/ml7.1 ng/ml7.2 ng/ml7.3 ng/ml7.4 ng/ml7.5 ng/ml7.6 ng/ml7.7 ng/ml
7.8 ng/ml7.9 ng/ml8 ng/ml8.1 ng/ml8.2 ng/ml8.3 ng/ml8.4 ng/ml8.5 ng/ml
Medically reviewed by our Medical staff on 06/07/2021

Bibliography

  • Concise Book of Medical Laboratory Technology: Methods and Interpretations. 2nd Edition. 2015. Ramnik Sood. ISBN: 978-93-5152-333-8. Pag. 683.
  • Laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures : with nursing diagnoses. Jane Vincent Corbett, Angela Denise Banks. 8th ed. 2013. ISBN: 978-0-13-237332-6. Pag. 246.
  • Tietz Fundamentals of Clinical Chemistry. Carl A. Burtis, Edward R. Ashwood, David E. Bruns. 2008. ISBN: ISBN: 978-0-7216-3865-2 Pag 299.

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