Background: The CA-125 tumor marker has limitations when used to distinguish between benign and malignant ovarian masses. We therefore establish likelihood curves of six subgroups of ovarian pathology based on CA-125 and menopausal status.
Methods: This cross-sectional study conducted by the International Ovarian Tumor Analysis group involved 3,511 patients presenting with a persistent adnexal mass that underwent surgical intervention. CA-125 distributions for six tumor subgroups (endometriomas and abscesses, other benign tumors, borderline tumors, stage I invasive cancers, stage II–IV invasive cancers, and metastatic tumors) were estimated using kernel density estimation with stratification for menopausal status. Likelihood curves for the tumor subgroups were derived from the distributions.
Results: Endometriomas and abscesses were the only benign pathologies with median CA-125 levels above 20 U/mL (43 and 45, respectively). Borderline and invasive stage I tumors had relatively low median CA-125 levels (29 and 81 U/mL, respectively). The CA-125 distributions of stage II–IV invasive cancers and benign tumors other than endometriomas or abscesses were well separated; the distributions of the other subgroups overlapped substantially. This held for premenopausal and postmenopausal patients. Likelihood curves and reference tables comprehensibly show how subgroup likelihoods change with CA-125 and menopausal status.
Conclusions and Impact: Our results confirm the limited clinical value of CA-125 for preoperative discrimination between benign and malignant ovarian pathology. We have shown that CA-125 may be used in a different way. By using likelihood reference tables, we believe clinicians will be better able to interpret preoperative serum CA-125 results in patients with adnexal masses. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; ©2011 AACR.
Note: Supplementary data for this article are available at Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention Online (http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/).
- Received May 5, 2011.
- Revision received July 29, 2011.
- Accepted September 1, 2011.
- ©2011 American Association for Cancer Research.