Our aim was to investigate the value of combined detection of serum carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), carbohydrate antigen (CA) 19-9, CA 242 and CA 50 in diagnosis and assessment of prognosis in consecutive gastric cancer patients. Clinical data including preoperative serum CEA, CA 19-9, CA 242, and CA 50 values and information on clinical pathological factors were collected and analyzed retrospectively. Univariate and multivariate survival analyses were used to explore the relationship between tumor markers and survival. Positive rates of tumor markers CEA, CA 19-9, CA 242 and CA 50 in the diagnosis of gastric cancer were 17.7, 17.1, 20.4 and 13.8%, respectively, and the positive rate for all four markers combined was 36.6%. Patients with elevated preoperative serum concentrations of CEA, CA 19-9, CA 242 and CA 50, had late clinical tumor stageand significantly poorer overall survival. Five-year survival rates in patients with elevated CEA, CA 19-9, CA 242 and CA 50 were 28.1, 25.8, 27.0 and 24.1%, respectively, compared with 55.0, 55.4, 56.4 and 54.5% in patients with these markers at normal levels (p<0.01). In multivariate Cox proportional hazards analyses, an elevated CA 242 level was determined to be an independent prognostic marker in gastric cancer patients. Combined detection of four tumor markers increased the positive rate for gastric cancer diagnosis. CA 242 showed higher diagnostic value and CA 50 showed lower diagnostic value. In resectable gastric carcinoma, preoperative CA 242 level was associated with disease stage, and was found to be a significant independent prognostic marker in gastric cancer patients.