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Background: Early identification of alcohol problems in women is important. Differences in patterns of drinking and in biological function between genders, however, may present unique difficulties in biochemical screening.

Methods: Published alcohol-screening studies with female samples and use as biomarkers of carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT), [gamma]-glutamyltransferase (GGT), and macrocytic volume were reviewed.

Results: A wide range of sensitivities and specificities of GGT and CDT have been reported, although, in general, the two markers seem approximately equal in accuracy. As in the case of males, use of them in combination substantially enhances sensitivity and little reduces specificity. Use of macrocytic volume improves the sensitivity of both GGT and CDT as alcohol-screening markers.

Conclusions: GGT and CDT have moderate sensitivity in screening for alcohol problems in women. Use of them in concert offers further advantage.

(C) 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.