Salivary mucoepidermoid carcinoma: revisited

Adv Anat Pathol. 2006 Nov;13(6):293-307. doi: 10.1097/01.pap.0000213058.74509.d3.


Mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC) is a malignant epithelial neoplasm composed of varying proportions of mucous, epidermoid, intermediate, columnar, and clear cells and often demonstrates prominent cystic growth. MEC is usually subclassified as low, intermediate, or high grade on the basis of its histologic features, including the presence of cystic spaces, cellular differentiation, proportion of mucous cells, growth pattern, type of invasion, and cytologic atypia. Because even low-grade neoplasms may metastasize, the term mucoepidermoid tumor is inappropriate. The 3-level grading approach to tumor classification has found general acceptance among pathologists; differences in biologic behavior can be demonstrated even though clinical stage has become a better prognosticator. However, in the case of MEC, no universal agreement exists regarding which histologic grading criteria are most the useful, and grading has varied. These issues have led to the investigation of more subjective systems. We describe these new schemes, the histologic variants of MEC, and the ancillary methods that allow for further stratification of patients with MEC, especially for patients with grade 2 tumors, which have a variable and unpredictable clinical course.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Mucoepidermoid / classification
  • Carcinoma, Mucoepidermoid / etiology
  • Carcinoma, Mucoepidermoid / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / classification
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / etiology
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / pathology*