An overview of testicular germ cell tumors

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2007 Aug;131(8):1267-80. doi: 10.5858/2007-131-1267-AOOTGC.


Context: More than 90% of testicular neoplasms originate from germ cells. Testicular germ cell tumors (GCTs) are a heterogeneous group of neoplasms with diverse histopathology and clinical behavior.

Objective: To help the readers distinguish various subtypes of GCTs, to highlight the clinical manifestations and pathologic features of these tumors, and to review several newly developed immunohistochemical markers for GCTs.

Data sources: Review of the pertinent literature and our experience.

Conclusions: The etiology of GCTs is largely unknown. Cytogenetic studies suggest a different pathogenesis for each group of infantile/prepubertal GCTs, postpubertal GCTs, and spermatocytic seminoma. Unclassified intratubular germ cell neoplasia is the precursor of all GCTs, excluding spermatocytic seminoma and infantile/prepubertal GCTs. Seminoma, the most common GCT in adults, does not occur before 5 years of age. Spermatocytic seminoma, a tumor of elderly men, typically has an indolent clinical behavior, but rarely it undergoes sarcomatous transformation associated with an aggressive behavior. Embryonal carcinoma is the most common component in mixed GCTs. Eighty percent or more of embryonal carcinoma component and vascular invasion are recognized predictors of occult metastasis for clinical stage I mixed GCTs. Most patients with prepubertal yolk sac tumor, the most common pediatric GCT, have stage I disease at presentation. Most choriocarcinomas present with metastatic symptoms because of the propensity for rapid hematogenous dissemination. Teratomas in children regardless of maturity and dermoid cysts in adults are benign; in contrast, teratomas in adults have a malignant behavior. With appropriate therapy, the majority of testicular GCTs are curable.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / chemistry
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / classification
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / pathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Testicular Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Testicular Neoplasms / classification
  • Testicular Neoplasms / pathology*
  • World Health Organization


  • Biomarkers, Tumor