BACKGROUND: CYFRA 21-1 is a tumor marker which measures a fragment of cytokeratin 19 expressed by epithelial cells in bronchus. It is known that cytokeratin 19 is abundant in squamous epithelial cell cancer of the lung. However, if the incidence of elevated serum CYFRA 21-1 level in patients with benign lung diseases or pulmonary tuberculosis with severe parenchymal damage is high the specificity of CYFRA 21-1 could be decreased. The purpose of this study is to investigate the changes of serum CYFRA 21-1 according to the degree of parenchymal damage and the usefulness of CYFRA 21-1 for diagnosing possibly combined lung cancer in patients with pulmonary tuberculosis. METHOD: We studied the changes of serum CYFRA 21-1 according to the sputum AFB stain, radiologic manifestation and history of treatment in 81 patients with pulmonary tuberculosis, and 20 healthy persons, 25 patients with lung cancer, as a control group. CYFRA 21-1 concentration in serum was quantified by the immunoradiometry assay(Centocor (R)) RESULT: The results were as follow; Serum CYFRA 21-1 level was significantly lower in patients with pulmonary tuberculosis(1.54+/-1.19ng/mL, p<0.01) as compared to patients with lung cancer( 12.25+/-15.97ng/mL), and was slightly higher than the level in heathy persons(0.90+/-0.49ng/mL) but there was no significant difference. Serum CYFRA 21-1 level was below the cut-off value of 3.3ng/mL in 95 percent of patients with pulmonary tuberculosis but it was above the cut-off value in 64 percent of patients with lung cancer. Serum CYFRA 21-1 level was significantly higher in the initial treatment group(1.91+/-1.55ng/mL, p<0.05) as compared to the treatment failure group (0.92+/-0.30ng/mL). According to the sputum AFB smear, serum CYFRA 21-1 level in patients with negative result was slightly higher than the level in patients with positive result but there was no significant difference. According to the radiologic manifestation, serum CYFRA 21-1 level was significantly higher in patients with infiltrative lesion (2.15+/-1.63ng/mL, p<0.01) as compared to patients with destructive lesion (1.04+/-0.54ng/mL). As the size of cavity or destructive lesion was larger, the level was significantly lower(p<0.05). CONCLUSION: As serum CYFRA 21-1 level was significantly higher in the initial treatment group and patients with infiltrative lesion, it suppose to be closely related with the degree of parenchymal damage of the lung of the pulmonary tuberculosis. However CYFRA 21-1 could be useful method for diagnosing lung cancer even in patients with pulmonary tuberculosis combined with lung cancer because of the fact that it was below the cutoff value of 3.3ng/mL in 95 percent of patients with pulmonary tuberculosis.