Early detection is important for improving the survival rate of patients with gastric cancer (GC). Serum tumor markers have been widely used for detecting GC. However, their clinical values remain controversial. This study aims to investigate the role of serum cancer antigen 72-4 (CA72-4) in the diagnosis of GC in a healthy population. A total of 7757 adults who underwent upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and serum CA72-4 level measurement in multicenters in Taiwan from January 2006 to August 2016 were recruited in this retrospective study. Risk factors for GC, serum tumor markers, and esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) findings were evaluated. High serum levels of CA72-4 were found in 7.2% of healthy adults. CA72-4 level showed lower sensitivity (33.3%) but higher specificity (92.8%); however, the positive predictive value was quite low (0.18%). After adjustment of clinical risk factors for GC using EGD findings, gastric ulcer (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 2.11), gastric polyps (aOR = 1.42), and atrophic gastritis (aOR = 1.27) were significantly associated with high serum CA72-4 levels. Furthermore, both age (OR = 1.01) and Helicobacter pylori infection (OR = 1.44) exhibited a significant association with high serum CA72-4 levels. These results indicate that routine screening of CA72-4 levels for diagnosing GC in asymptomatic patients may be ineffective due to low sensitivity and low positive predictive value. The clinical utility of EGD findings along with serum CA72-4 level for screening healthy individuals with GC is warranted.
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