Aberrant crypt foci in the human colon: frequency and histologic patterns in patients with colorectal cancer or diverticular disease

Am J Surg Pathol. 1999 Oct;23(10):1256-63. doi: 10.1097/00000478-199910000-00011.


Aberrant crypt foci are considered potential markers of colorectal cancer risk. The aim of this study was to analyze a large series of human aberrant crypt foci according to frequency, distribution, and histology. Aberrant crypt foci were identified in methylene blue-stained colonic mucosa from 103 patients undergoing surgery for colorectal cancer or diverticular disease. Foci were histologically classified into surface hyperplastic type, surface and glandular hyperplastic type, mixed hyperplastic and adenomatous type, and adenomatous type. The mean frequency of aberrant crypt foci (n = 720) was higher in the colorectal cancer group (0.20/cm2) than in the diverticular disease group (0.07/cm2), and in distal colonic segments than in proximal segments. Most of the histologically examined foci (n = 366) were hyperplastic (88.8%). Surface hyperplasia accounted for 30.6% and prevailed in small lesions. Surface and glandular hyperplasia accounted for 58.2% and prevailed in medium-sized to large foci. Partially or totally dysplastic foci accounted for 10.1% of examined lesions (10.8% and 2.8% in the colorectal cancer and diverticular disease groups, respectively). Most of them (94.6%) were composed of mixed hyperplastic and adenomatous crypts and prevailed in large lesions. The higher frequency of aberrant crypt foci in patients with colorectal cancer sustains their putative role as preneoplastic markers. The high rate of mixed hyperplastic and adenomatous lesions supports the possible adenomatous transformation of hyperplastic lesions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / complications
  • Adenoma / pathology*
  • Colon / pathology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / complications
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Diverticulum, Colon / complications
  • Diverticulum, Colon / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia / pathology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology*
  • Male
  • Precancerous Conditions / complications
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology*