Ovarian cancer tumor marker behavior in asymptomatic healthy women: Implications for screening

Casey Crump, Martin W. McIntosh, Nicole Urban, Garnet Anderson, Beth Y. Karlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Ovarian cancer screening protocols generally have been limited by inadequate recognition of the normal behavior of tumor markers in women at risk of ovarian cancer. We have characterized the behavior of five serum tumor markers in a large cohort of healthy women and examined the implications for screening. Serial measurements of CA125, HER-2/neu, urinary gonadotropin peptide, lipid-associated sialic acid, and Dianon marker 70/K were obtained during 6 years of follow-up of 1257 healthy women at high risk of ovarian cancer. We analyzed individual-specific tumor marker behavior and explored methods that can exploit this information to develop individual-specific screening rules. These five tumor markers behaved approximately independently. Substantial heterogeneity was observed among women in the behavior of each tumor marker, particularly CA125. Intraclass correlation (ICC), or the proportion of total variability that occurs between individuals, was approximately 0.6 for log-transformed CA125 and urinary gonadotropin peptide, and less than 0.4 for the other markers. This degree of tumor marker heterogeneity among healthy women, and the relative independence of these markers, has important implications for screening and diagnostic tests. Independence of markers results in the clinically useful fact that the combined false positive rate from screening with multiple markers may be estimated by the sum of individual false positive rates. Heterogeneity of tumor marker patterns in healthy women implies that a fixed screening cutoff level is suboptimal to a degree that depends strongly on ICC. Using information on longitudinal measurements and ICC, individual-specific screening rules may be developed with the potential to improve early detection of ovarian cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1107-1111
Number of pages5
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


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