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Carcinoembryonic Antigen Test: Facts and Fantasy

Charles G. Moertel, MD
JAMA. 1974;228(2):156. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230270016003.
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To the Editor.—  In the February 18 issue, The Journal's medical news (227:731, 1974) announced Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test for cancer detection. News service releases have resulted in headlines for the new cancer test in almost every newspaper in the land and around the world. As might have been anticipated, the lay press took dramatic license in interpreting the original announcement. For example, one West German release stated that the CEA test would detect cancer several months before the body gave any other signs. Predictably, demand for this test has been booming among cancerophobes both here and abroad. After federal approval, it might seem presumptuous to question the validity of the claims made for the CEA test; yet, the physician must assume individual responsibility for critical appraisal of any innovation that could have such a great impact on patient care.The FDA-approved


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