Tumour markers are a very heterogeneous group of molecules that are generally found in very small concentrations in the plasma and serum of healthy individuals. In the process of neoplastic differentiation the cell can synthesize, release, or induce synthesis of other cells, thus increasing their concentration in plasma and serum. These substances may also increase their plasma concentration in patients without cancer due to processes that increase the release or reduce catabolism, and so give rise to false positives. An understanding of the main physiopathological processes that increase the concentrations of these substances could improve our interpretation of tumour markers and their clinical application. In this study we review the physiopathological processes that may increase the plasma concentrations of tumour markers. We performed a bibliography review in PubMed, searching for causes of false positives for the following tumour markers: α-Fetoprotein, CA 125, CA 15-3, CA 19-9, CA 72-4, carcinoembryonic antigen, CYFRA 21-1, squamous cell carcinoma, prostatic specific antigen, β2-microglobulin, choriogonadotropin (β chain), chromogranin A, neuron specific enolase, HER2-neu, progastrin releas-ing peptide, S-100, and thyroglobulin. The results favour the use of tests which can identify pathological processes that may increase tumour marker concentrations.
©2011 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston