Background/aims: It has been uncertain whether colorectal carcinomas preferentially arise on preexisting adenomas or de novo. However, from a morphological viewpoint, it seems unlikely that pedunculated or exophytic malignant polyps progress to the deeply ulcerated advanced carcinomas usually found clinically.
Methods: The morphological features of 26 nonpolypoid, superficial-type colorectal tumors (17 adenomas and 9 adenocarcinomas) were compared to clarify the developmental route of colorectal carcinomas.
Results: The adenomas and adenocarcinomas were very similar in size and gross appearance; however, examination of the surface appearances of unsectioned tumors by dissecting microscopy was helpful for distinguishing the two. Histologically, no adenomatous tissue was found in any case of superficial-type adenocarcinoma. Five of the nine adenocarcinomas, even including those of small size, invaded the submucosal layer, and two showed lymph node metastasis.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that superficial-type adenocarcinomas show rapid growth and aggressive behavior. We suggest that this type of carcinoma may not progress by the adenoma-to-carcinoma pathway but that it may arise from a very small superficial-type adenoma.