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Beta-2 Microglobulin Tumor Marker

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Also known as: B2M; B2M; β2-Microglobulin; Thymotaxin
Formal name: Beta2 Microglobulin, Serum, Urine, or CSF

Were you looking for the Beta-2 Microglobulin test that is ordered to evaluate kidney disease?

At a Glance

Why Get Tested?

To help evaluate the severity and prognosis of certain cancers, including multiple myeloma and lymphoma

When to Get Tested?

When you have been diagnosed with multiple myeloma or certain other cancers; sometimes to monitor disease activity and treatment

Sample Required?

A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm; sometimes a 24-hour urine sample; rarely a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) sample

Test Preparation Needed?

None

The Test Sample

What is being tested?

Beta-2 microglobulin (B2M) is a protein that is found on the surface of almost all cells in the body and is shed by cells into the blood, particularly by B lymphocytes and tumor cells. It is present in most body fluids and its level rises with conditions that increase cell production and/or destruction, or that activate the immune system. This test measures B2M in the blood, urine, or rarely in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

B2M is frequently elevated in the blood with cancers such as multiple myeloma and lymphoma and with inflammatory disorders and infections (e.g., HIV, CMV). Because B2M is increased with blood cell cancers, it is useful as a tumor marker. Though it can be used to assess kidney function, this article focuses on its use as a tumor marker.

The B2M level can be increased in the CSF of individuals with blood cell cancers that have spread (metastasized) to the brain, such as lymphoma, but also with some chronic disorders such as multiple sclerosis and with viral infections such as HIV.

How is the sample collected for testing?

A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm. A 24-hour urine sample may also be collected. Rarely, a CSF sample may be collected from the lower back using a procedure called a lumbar puncture or spinal tap.

NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.

Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

No test preparation is needed.

The Test

Common Questions

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Article Sources

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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.

Sources Used in Current Review

Seiter, K. and Shah, D. (Updated 2013 May 29). Multiple Myeloma. Medscape Reference [On-line information]. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/204369-overview through http://emedicine.medscape.com. Accessed June 2013.

(Modified 2013 May 17). Plasma Cell Neoplasms (Including Multiple Myeloma) Treatment (PDQ®). National Cancer Institute [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/myeloma/patient/ through http://www.cancer.gov. Accessed June 2013.

Mayo Clinic staff (2011 August 16). Multiple myeloma. Mayo Clinic [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/multiple-myeloma/DS00415/DSECTION=all&METHOD=print through http://www.mayoclinic.com. Accessed June 2013.

(Revised 2013 February 12). Multiple Myeloma. American Cancer Society [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.cancer.org/cancer/multiplemyeloma/detailedguide/index through http://www.cancer.org. Accessed June 2013.

Durie, B. (2013). Patient Handbook: Multiple Myeloma. International Myeloma Foundation [On-line information]. Available online at http://myeloma.org/pdfs/Patient_Handbook_2013.pdf through http://myeloma.org. Accessed June 2013.

(Revised 2012). Understanding Lab and Imaging Tests. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society [On-line information]. Available online through http://www.lls.org. Accessed June 2013.

(2011 December 7). Tumor Markers. National Cancer Institute [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Detection/tumor-markers through http://www.cancer.gov. Accessed June 2013.

Pagana, K. D. & Pagana, T. J. (© 2011). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 10th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 680-682.

Tietz Textbook of Clinical Chemistry and Molecular Diagnostics. Burtis CA, Ashwood ER, Bruns DE, eds. 4th edition, St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders; 2006, pg 555.

Sources Used in Previous Reviews

Pagana, K. D. & Pagana, T. J. (© 2007). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 8th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 155-156.

Wu, A. (© 2006). Tietz Clinical Guide to Laboratory Tests, 4th Edition: Saunders Elsevier, St. Louis, MO. Pp 742-743.

(© 2008). Multiple Myeloma Disease Overview. Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation [On-line information]. PDF available for download at http://www.multiplemyeloma.org/downloads/about_myeloma/MMRF_Disease_Overview.pdf through http://www.multiplemyeloma.org. Accessed August 2009.

(Modified 2009 July 23). General Information About Multiple Myeloma and Other Plasma Cell Neoplasms. National Cancer Institute. [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/myeloma/patient/ through http://www.cancer.gov. Accessed August 2009.

(© 1995–2009). Overview: Beta-2 Microglobulin (B[2]-M), Urine. Mayo Clinic Mayo Medical Laboratories [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Overview/300243 through http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com. Accessed August 2009.

(© 1995–2009). Overview: Beta-2-Microglobulin (Beta-2-M), Serum. Mayo Clinic Mayo Medical Laboratories [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Overview/9234 through http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com. Accessed August 2009.

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