To investigate the prognostic value of tumor markers, cancer antigen 15-3 (CA 15-3) and carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) levels at diagnosis of systemic recurrence. After primary treatments of locoregional breast cancers, serum CA 15-3 and/or CEA concentrations were regularly measured, and systemic recurrences were identified in 351 patients between January 1999 and December 2009. The association between tumor marker levels at systemic recurrence and survival were investigated by univariate and multivariate analyses. Elevated CA 15-3 and CEA levels were identified in 194 of 349 (55.6 %) and 111 of 308 (36.0 %) patients, respectively, at diagnosis of systemic recurrence. Elevated levels of CA 15-3 and CEA were correlated with visceral or multiple recurrences and elevated preoperative levels. Elevation of CA 15-3 was more prominent in younger patients and in primary node-positive tumors, while CEA was elevated in older patients at diagnosis and in estrogen receptor (ER)-positive tumors. Elevated tumor markers as well as ER negativity, short disease-free interval, and advanced stage at initial diagnosis showed independent prognostic significance on multivariate analysis. Among 306 patients for whom levels of both tumor markers at recurrence were available, 106 patients without elevation of either marker showed significantly better overall survival than those with elevated levels of either one or both markers, and the significance persisted in multivariate analysis. Elevated serum CA 15-3 and CEA levels at recurrence suggest increased tumor burden and may be prognostic for survival for metastatic breast cancer patients.
Breast carcinoma CA 15-3 CEA Prognostic factors Tumor marker Systemic recurrence
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Conflict of interest
The authors have declared no relevant conflicts of interest.
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