Background: Large discrepancies have been found between Western and Japanese pathologists in the diagnosis of adenoma/dysplasia versus carcinoma for gastric and colorectal glandular lesions. It is important to determine whether similar differences exist in the diagnosis of esophageal squamous lesions.
Methods: Eleven expert gastrointestinal pathologists from Japan, North America, and Europe individually reviewed a set of microscopic slides containing 21 sections of biopsies and corresponding endoscopic mucosal resection specimens from Japanese patients with superficial esophageal squamous neoplastic lesions. The pathologists indicated the pathologic findings on which they based each diagnosis.
Results: Invasion was the most important diagnostic criterion of carcinoma for the Western pathologists whereas nuclear and structural features were more important for the Japanese pathologists. For two sections showing low grade dysplasia according to most Western pathologists, the Japanese pathologists diagnosed suspected carcinoma in one case and definite carcinoma in the other. For nine sections with high grade dysplasia according to the Western pathologists, the Japanese pathologists diagnosed suspected carcinoma in two cases and definite carcinoma in seven cases. For six sections with suspected carcinoma according to most Western pathologists, the Japanese pathologists diagnosed suspected carcinoma in one case and definite carcinoma in five cases. Four sections showed definite carcinoma according to both the Western and Japanese pathologists. Thus, there was agreement among the Western and Japanese pathologists for only 5 of the 21 sections (kappa value, 0.04). However, when high grade dysplasia, noninvasive carcinoma, and suspected carcinoma were grouped together, the agreement was excellent (19 of the 21 sections; kappa value, 0.75).
Conclusions: In Japan, esophageal squamous cell carcinoma is diagnosed mainly based on nuclear criteria, even in cases judged to be noninvasive low grade dysplasia in the West. This difference in diagnostic practice may contribute to the relatively high incidence rate and good prognosis of superficial esophageal carcinoma in Japan. To improve the comparability of research data, the authors recommend that high grade dysplasia, noninvasive carcinoma, and suspected carcinoma be grouped together into one category of "noninvasive high grade neoplasia." [See editorial on pages 969-70, this issue.]
Copyright 2000 American Cancer Society.