Alpha-fetoprotein ( AFP)
Why do we do this test?
1. To assist in the diagnosis of certain cancers in the testes, ovaries or liver (including cancer predisposing conditions such as chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis). In the monitoring of the therapy once initiated and after completion of treatment in regular intervals to detect disease re-appearance.
It is measured in the cerebrospinal fluid (fluid around the brain) as well to detect whether cancer has spread to the brain.
Alpha-fetoprotein is a protein produced by the fetal liver (liver in a developing baby/embryo) It is very high in newborns and gradually declines with age. Levels increase with regeneration liver cells as in chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis. The levels are very high in liver cell cancer and hepatoblastomas (liver cancer in young children)
2. Levels are checked in the amniotic fluids to detect open neural tube defects during pregnancy.
Specimen Type
Serum, Plasma (EDTA), Plasma (Li Heparin), CSF, Amniotic fluid
Instructions for specimen collection & Patient preparation
Specimen transportation & Processing
Separate serum as soon as possible. Transport separated serum/plasma in ice
(2-8 C)
Specimen storage & stability
For prolonged storage keep frozen at -20C. If analysis with-in 5 days stable at 0 C.
Specimen storage duration
Reference Intervals & Target Values
For non-pregnant <7.0 ng/mL
Range for newborns not available. Concentrations over 100,000 ng/mL have been reported in normal newborns but values rapidly declines during the first six months of life.
Critical Limits
Possible Pre-analytical Errors
Gross Haemalysis
Possible Analytical Errors
Insufficient serum/plasma volume, Air bubbles, Fibrin clots.
Available Government Laboratories
Apeksha Hospital, National Hospital Sri Lanka, Medical Research Institute, National Hospital Kandy, Teaching Hospital Jaffna, North Colombo Teaching Hospital, Karapitiya Teaching Hospital
Recommended turnaround time
1 - 7 days

Test Method


1. Sturgeon CM, Duffy MJ, Stenman UH, et al; National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry laboratory medicine practice guidelines for use of tumour markers in testicular, prostate, colorectal, breast and ovarian cancers. Clin Chem 2008 Dec;54(12):e11-79
2. Daniel W.Chan, Stewart Sell; Tumour Markers. Burtis CA, Ashwood ER. Tietz Text Book of Clinical Chemistry,3rd edition, USA, Elsevier Saunders 1999, 722-749

Last Updated : 2020-09-23 04:46:40






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