Clinical, histopathologic, and immunohistochemical features of microglandular adenosis and transition into in situ and invasive carcinoma

Am J Surg Pathol. 2008 Apr;32(4):544-52. doi: 10.1097/PAS.0b013e31815a87e2.


Microglandular adenosis (MGA) of the breast is widely known as a benign lesion that can mimic invasive carcinoma. In situ and invasive carcinomas have been described as arising in MGA, but which cases of MGA will progress to carcinoma is unclear. Criteria for distinguishing uncomplicated MGA, MGA with atypia (AMGA), and carcinoma arising in MGA (MGACA) are not standardized. The primary objective of this study was to illustrate the clinical, histopathologic, and immunophenotypical characteristics of MGA, AMGA, and MGACA in an effort to provide criteria for distinguishing the 3 types. We retrospectively identified 108 cases seen at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center between 1983 and 2007 that had a diagnosis of MGA. Of the 108 cases, 65 cases had available material for review. Inclusion criteria were glands of MGA expressing S-100 protein and lacking myoepithelial layer (smooth muscle actin negative). Eleven out of 65 cases qualified to have an MGA component; myoepithelial layer was detected in the remaining 54 cases and were classified as adenosis. Out of the 11 MGA patients, there were 3 patients with uncomplicated MGA, 2 had AMGA, and 6 had MGACA. Staining indices for the cell cycle markers p53 and Ki-67 were used to compare the 3 tumor categories. Additional staining for other tumor markers [estrogen and progesterone receptors, HER2, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), c-kit, CK5/6, and CK18] were performed. Patient demographics, tumor radiologic features, and clinical follow-up data were collected for all cases. Multiple invasive histologic components were identified in each of the MGACA cases. All invasive MGACAs had a duct-forming component. In addition, basal-like component was present in 2 cases, aciniclike in 2, matrix producing in 4, sarcomatoid in 1, and adenoid cystic in 1. All tumors had strong and diffuse CK8/18 and EGFR expression but no estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, HER2 (ie, triple negative), or CK5/6 expression. C-kit was focally expressed in 2 of the MGACAs. Ki-67 and p53 labeling indices was < 3% in all MGAs, 5% to 10% in the AMGAs, and > 30% in MGACAs. In a follow-up ranging from 14 days to 8 years, none of the MGA cases recurred. One of the AMGA cases recurred as invasive carcinoma in a background of AMGA after 8 years following incomplete excision of the lesion. Three out of 6 MGACA cases (50%) required multiple consecutive resections ending up with mastectomy due to involved margins by invasive or in situ carcinoma. Two out of 6 MGACA cases (34%) developed metastasis and died of disease. Our data showed that Ki-67 and p53 expression, in conjunction with the morphologic features, could be a reliable marker to distinguish MGA from AMGA and MGACA. Although 11 tumors were only included in our study, 64% of the tumors were carcinomas arising in MGA. This high incidence of MGACA may not represent the actual frequency of MGAs progressing into carcinoma and is likely due to referral bias in our institution. Nonetheless, the high association of carcinoma with MGA necessitates complete excision of MGA to rule out invasion. Although all the MGACA cases were triple negative and express EGFR (basal-like features), all the cases in our study showed a luminal type of differentiation by CK8/18 expression, indicating that MGACA may not fit well into the current proposed molecular classification of breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Actins / analysis
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinoma / chemistry
  • Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Carcinoma / surgery
  • Carcinoma in Situ / pathology
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / chemistry
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Errors / prevention & control
  • Disease Progression
  • ErbB Receptors / analysis
  • Female
  • Fibrocystic Breast Disease / chemistry
  • Fibrocystic Breast Disease / pathology*
  • Fibrocystic Breast Disease / surgery
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry*
  • Keratins / analysis
  • Ki-67 Antigen / analysis
  • Mastectomy
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Precancerous Conditions / chemistry
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology*
  • Precancerous Conditions / surgery
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / analysis
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / analysis
  • Receptors, Estrogen / analysis
  • Receptors, Progesterone / analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • S100 Proteins / analysis
  • Texas
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / analysis


  • Actins
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • S100 Proteins
  • TP53 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Keratins
  • EGFR protein, human
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit
  • Receptor, ErbB-2