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Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is the most commonly studied tumour marker in colorectal cancer. Although several studies have shown that well-differentiated tumoursproduce higher CEA levels than moderately/poorly differentiated ones, the clinical implication of CEA in colorectal cancer still remains unclear. This study aimed to identify the association between CEA level and degree of differentiation in colorectal cancer.Aprospective study of 50 patients with colorectal cancer, who underwent surgery between 1 September 2009, and 1 May 2010, was carried out. Blood serum samples were analysed for CEA by degree of tumour differentiation. The CEA level of < 2.5 μg/1 was considered normal.Sixteen patients were identified as having well-differentiated and 34 patients as having moderately/poorly differentiated carcinomas. The CEA level was higher than normal in 24 (48%) out of 50 cases. Fifteen out of 34 moderately/poorly differentiated tumours were associated with an increased CEA level as compared with 9 out of 16 for well-differentiated tumours (44.12% vs 56.25%; P < 0.05).The CEA level was higher in patients with well-differentiated tumours than in patients with moderately/poorly differentiated ones.