Myoepithelial cells in the differential diagnosis of complex benign and malignant breast lesions: an immunohistochemical study

Mod Pathol. 1990 Mar;3(2):135-40.


The distinction between sclerosing adenosis, radial scars, noninvasive carcinomas occurring in sclerosing adenosis, and invasive carcinoma can be difficult. The identification of a myoepithelial (ME) cell layer is helpful in establishing a diagnosis of complex benign breast proliferation as well as intraepithelial neoplasia in sclerosing adenosis. We reviewed pathologic material from patients with tubular carcinoma (23) and complex breast proliferations (28), including sclerosing adenosis (12), radial scars (9), sclerosing adenosis with intraepithelial neoplasia (5), and sclerosing adenosis with atypical apocrine metaplasia (2). Immunoperoxidase stains on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue using a muscle actin-specific antibody of clone HHF35 and high molecular weight cytokeratin of clone 34 beta E12 (HMW keratin) were performed to identify myoepithelial cells. Muscle actin was uniformly reliable in staining ME cells, as well as other actin-containing cells such as myofibroblasts and vascular smooth muscle. HMW keratin was less reliable, being poorly sensitive and less specific than muscle actin for labeling of ME cells. ME cells were readily identified at the periphery of ductules in all complex benign breast lesions. The presence of ME cells distinguished intraepithelial neoplasia involving sclerosing adenosis from invasive carcinomas. Well differentiated invasive carcinoma forming tubular structures lacked a ME cell layer.

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Breast / metabolism
  • Breast Diseases / metabolism
  • Breast Diseases / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinoma / metabolism
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Keratins / metabolism
  • Molecular Weight
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Reference Values


  • Actins
  • Keratins