Alpha-Fetoprotein (AFP) and AFP-L3 Most Popular

The Alpha-Fetoprotein (AFP) and AFP-L3 test contains 1 test with 2 biomarkers.

Description: The Alpha-Fetoprotein and AFP-L3 test is a blood test used to detect the protein alpha-fetoprotein which is produced by the liver.

Also Known As: AFP Test, Total AFP Test, AFP-L3 Test, Alpha-Fetoprotein Tumor Markers, Alpha-Fetoprotein Test

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Serum

Test Preparation: No preparation required

When is an Alpha-Fetoprotein and AFP-L3 test ordered?

An AFP blood test may be ordered by a healthcare provider:

  • When abdominal masses are felt during a medical examination or imaging testing reveal possible malignancies, it is likely that someone has liver cancer or certain malignancies of the testicles or ovaries.
  • When someone has been diagnosed with and treated for cancer of the liver, testicles, or ovaries, the success of treatment is being assessed.
  • When someone is being watched for a recurrence of cancer
  • Patients with persistent hepatitis or liver cirrhosis should be followed up on.
  • When a person has chronic liver illness, an AFP-L3 percent is occasionally ordered to help evaluate the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, test the efficiency of hepatocellular carcinoma treatment, or monitor for recurrence.

What does an Alpha-Fetoprotein and AFP-L3 blood test check for?

Alpha-fetoprotein is a protein produced predominantly by the liver of a developing baby and the yolk cavity of a developing embryo. When a baby is born, AFP levels are usually high and then rapidly drop. Liver injury and certain malignancies can drastically raise AFP levels. This test determines the amount of AFP in your blood.

When the liver cells regenerate, AFP is generated. AFP can be continuously high in chronic liver illnesses such hepatitis and cirrhosis. Certain cancers can produce extremely high quantities of AFP. Because of this, the AFP test can be used as a tumor marker. Many persons with hepatocellular carcinoma and hepatoblastoma, a kind of liver cancer that affects babies, have elevated levels of AFP. They're also discovered in certain persons who have testicular or ovarian cancer.

There are various different types of AFP. The normal AFP test measures total AFP, which includes all of the AFP variations. In the United States, this is the most common AFP test.

One of the AFP variations is known as L3 because of its propensity to attach to a protein called Lens culinaris agglutinin in the lab. The AFP-L3 percent test compares the quantity of AFP-L3 to the total amount of AFP and is a relatively recent test. Increased L3 levels are linked to a higher likelihood of developing hepatocellular carcinoma in the near future, as well as a worse prognosis, because L3-related malignancies are more aggressive.

AFP-L3 can be higher in people with hepatocellular carcinoma than in those with benign liver disorders who have low total AFP. In Japan, tumor markers such as total AFP and AFP-L3 are utilized in conjunction with ultrasound to monitor hepatocellular carcinoma. This procedure differs from that in the United States and Europe, but healthcare practitioners in the United States occasionally order the two tests.

Lab tests often ordered with an Alpha-Fetoprotein and AFP-L3 test:

  • CEA
  • CA-125
  • hCG Tumor Marker
  • DCP

Conditions where an Alpha-Fetoprotein and AFP-L3 test is recommended:

  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Testicular Cancer

How does my health care provider use an Alpha-Fetoprotein and AFP-L3 test?

The tumor marker alpha-fetoprotein is used to detect and diagnose malignancies of the liver, testicles, and ovaries. Despite the fact that the test is frequently done to monitor persons with chronic liver illnesses including cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis B, or hepatitis C who have an elevated lifetime risk of developing liver cancer, most current guidelines do not advocate it. An AFP test, together with imaging studies, may be ordered by a healthcare provider to try to diagnose liver cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages.

If a person has been diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma or another type of AFP-producing cancer, an AFP test may be done on a regular basis to assess treatment response and disease recurrence.

When comparing the amount of the AFP variation AFP-L3 to the total amount of AFP, an AFP-L3 percent is occasionally ordered. The AFP-L3 percent test is not extensively used in the United States, but it is becoming more popular in other nations, such as Japan. The test is used to assess the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma, particularly in people with chronic liver disease, as well as the response of the cancer to treatment.

What do my Alpha-fetoprotein test results mean?

Increased AFP levels can suggest the presence of cancer, such as liver cancer, ovarian cancer, or testicular germ cell tumors. However, not all cancers of the liver, ovary, or testicles produce substantial amounts of AFP.

Other malignancies, such as stomach, colon, lung, breast, and lymphoma, might sometimes have elevated levels, but it is rarely ordered to check these illnesses. Cirrhosis and hepatitis are two disorders that can generate elevated levels.

When using AFP as a monitoring tool, lower levels suggest a therapeutic response. If concentrations do not considerably drop after cancer therapy, usually to normal or near-normal levels, some tumor tissue may still be present.

If AFP levels start to rise, the cancer is most likely to return. However, because AFP levels can be deceiving in hepatitis or cirrhosis, AFP levels can be misleading. If AFP levels are not raised prior to therapy, the test will not be useful in monitoring treatment effectiveness or detecting recurrence.

People with chronic liver disease have a higher chance of getting liver cancer when their AFP levels rise from normal to moderately raised to significantly elevated. When total AFP and AFP-L3 percent are highly higher, the person is more likely to develop or have hepatocellular carcinoma in the next year or two. In persons with chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis, however, both AFP and AFP-L3 percent concentrations might be increased and fluctuate. In these circumstances, a significant increase in AFP is more essential than the test result's numerical value.

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

The following is a list of what is included in the item above. Click the test(s) below to view what biomarkers are measured along with an explanation of what the biomarker is measuring.

Also known as: AFP and AFP-L3%, AlphaFetoprotein AFP and AFPL3


AFP is used as a tumor marker to help detect and diagnose cancers of the liver, testes, and ovaries. Though the test is often ordered to monitor people with chronic liver diseases such as cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C because they have an increased lifetime risk of developing liver cancer. If a person has been diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma or another form of AFP-producing cancer, an AFP test may be ordered periodically to help monitor the person's response to therapy and to monitor for cancer recurrence.


An AFP-L3% is sometimes also ordered to compare the amount of the AFP variant called AFP-L3 to the total amount of AFP. The test is used to help evaluate the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma, especially in those with chronic liver disease, and also to evaluate response of hepatocellular carcinoma to treatment.
*Process times are an estimate and are not guaranteed. The lab may need additional time due to weather, holidays, confirmation/repeat testing, or equipment maintenance.

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