Methylation of the fifth carbon atom in cytosine is an epigenetic modification of deoxyribonucleic acid that plays important roles in numerous cellular processes and disease pathogenesis. Three additional states of cytosine, that is, 5-hydroxymethylcytosine, 5-formylcytosine and 5-carboxylcytosine, have been identified and associated with the diagnosis and/or prognosis of diseases. However, accurate measurement of those intermediates is a challenge since their global levels are relatively low. A number of innovative methods have been developed to detect and quantify these compounds in biological samples, such as blood, tissue and urine, etc. This review focuses on recent advancement in detection and quantification of four cytosine modifications, based on which, the development, diagnosis, and prognosis of diseases could be monitored through non-invasive procedures.