Langerhans cell histiocytosis in adults. Report from the International Registry of the Histiocyte Society

Eur J Cancer. 2003 Nov;39(16):2341-8. doi: 10.1016/s0959-8049(03)00672-5.


Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH), characterised by the infiltration of one or more organs by large mononuclear cells, can develop in persons of any age. Although the features of this disease are well described in children, they remain poorly defined in adults. From January 2000 to June 2001, 274 adults from 13 countries, with biopsy-proven adult LCH, were registered with the International Histiocyte Society Registry. Information was collected about clinical presentation, family history, associated conditions, cigarette smoking and treatment, to assist in future management decisions in patients aged 18 years and older. There were slightly more males than females (143:126), and the mean ages at the onset and diagnosis of disease were 33 years (standard deviation (S.D.) 15 years) and 35 years (S.D. 14 years), respectively. 2 patients had consanguineous parents, and 1 had a family history of LCH; 129 reported smoking (47.1%); 17 (6.2%) had been diagnosed with different types of cancer. Single-system LCH, found in 86 patients (31.4%), included isolated pulmonary involvement in 44 cases; 188 patients (68.6%) had multisystem disease; 81 (29.6%) had diabetes insipidus. Initial treatment consisted of vinblastine administered with or without steroids, to 82 patients (29.9%), including 9 who had received it with etoposide, which was the sole agent given to 19 patients. 236 patients were considered evaluable for survival. At a median follow-up of 28 months from diagnosis, 15 patients (6.4%) had died (death rate, 1.5/100 person years, 95% Confidence Interval (95% CI) 0.9-2.4). The probability of survival at 5 years postdiagnosis was 92.3% (95% CI 85.6-95.9) overall, 100% for patients with single-system disease (n=37), 87.8% (95% CI 54.9-97.2) for isolated pulmonary disease (n=34), and 91.7% (95% CI 83.6-95.9) for multisystem disease (n=163). Survival did not differ significantly among patients with multisystem disease, with or without liver or lung involvement) 5-year survival 93.6% (95% CI 84.7-97.4) versus 87.5% (95% CI 65.5-95.9), respectively; P value 0.1). LCH in adults is most often a multisystem disease with the highest mortality seen in patients with isolated pulmonary involvement. It should be included in the differential diagnosis of disseminated or localised disease of the bone, skin and mucosa, as well as the lung and the endocrine and central nervous system, regardless of the age of the patient. A prospective international therapeutic study is warranted.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Consanguinity
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Histiocytosis, Langerhans-Cell / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Registries
  • Survival Analysis
  • Survival Rate
  • United States / epidemiology