Stains
CEA / CD66e

Author: Nat Pernick, M.D. (see Authors page)

Revised: 26 January 2017, last major update November 2014

Copyright: (c) 2003-2017, PathologyOutlines.com, Inc.

PubMed Search: CEA[title]

Related topics: General, CD66b, CD66c, CD66d, CD66f
Cite this page: CEA / CD66e. PathologyOutlines.com website. http://www.pathologyoutlines.com/topic/stainscea.html. Accessed December 17th, 2017.
Definition / general
  • Also called CEA, carcinoembryonic antigen and CEACAM5
  • Either polyclonal (pCEA) or monoclonal (mCEA)
  • Normally detected in glycocalyx of fetal epithelial cells
  • May play a role in the metastasis of cancer cells
  • Usually considered an epithelial marker with strong staining in adenocarcinomas
Case reports
Uses by pathologists
Microscopic (histologic) images

Images hosted on Pathout server:
Courtesy of Andrey Bychkov, M.D., Ph.D.:

Location of C cells in
relation to thyroid follicle

Clustered distribution
of C cells



Cervical adenoid cystic carcinoma



Images hosted on other servers:

Ampulla of Vater-Paneth cell carcinoma (figure G)

Breast adenoid cystic carcinoma (fig 13)


Cervical adenocarcinoma: signet ring cell type (fig D)


Cervical adenocarcinoma: intestinal differentiation (fig D)


Colon inverted hyperplastic polyp (normal colon at upper right is CEA-)


Gastric adenocarcinoma metastatic to colon (fig 4)



Lung adenocarcinoma metastatic to ovary (figure 2B)


Medullary thyroid carcinoma (fig 7)

Paget's disease of vulva (fig 11)

Paget's disease of scrotum


Secretory meningioma (left, fig 10; right, fig 11)

Peritoneal benign multicystic
mesothelioma (an atypical
finding, fig 2F)


Sweat gland carcinoma(fig 8B)

Various images: quality control



Images hosted on Nature.com:

Hepatocellular carcinoma (polyclonal CEA)

Hepatocellular carcinoma: clear cell variant (fig A)

Liver: poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma (figure 4D)

Hepatocellular carcinoma
vs. cholangiocarcinoma
(note different staining patterns)

Cytology images

Cholangiocarcinoma (fig 8)

Positive staining - normal
  • Granulocytes and epithelial cells (apical surfaces)
  • Also biliary tract including gallbladder, colon (fetal), hepatocytes, prostatic secretory cells (25%) and small intestinal crypts
  • Small intestinal goblet cell mucin (not intracytoplasmic), thyroid cell nests and C cells
Positive staining - tumors
Negative staining