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Alpha-fetoprotein (alpha fetoprotein), serum

Alpha-fetoprotein (alpha fetoprotein) is normally produced by a developing fetus. Alpha fetoprotein levels begin to decrease soon after birth and are usually undetectable in the blood of healthy adults (except during pregnancy).

Reference interval

  • Nonpregant: < 15ng/mL
  • Pregnant </= 500 ng/mL in the 3rd trimester

Elevated alpha fetoprotein

An elevated level of alpha fetoprotein strongly suggests the presence of either

  • Primary liver cancer or
  • Germ cell cancer (cancer that begins in the cells that give rise to eggs or sperm) of the ovary or testicle.

Only rarely do patients with other types of cancer (such as stomach cancer) have elevated levels of alpha fetoprotein.

Noncancerous conditions that can cause elevated alpha fetoprotein levels include

  • Benign liver conditions, such as cirrhosis or hepatitis;
  • Ataxia telangiectasia;
  • Wiscott-Aldrich syndrome
  • Pregnancy.
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