The value of the 1981 WHO histological classification in inter-observer reproducibility and changing pattern of lung cancer

Int J Cancer. 1993 Jan 21;53(2):205-8. doi: 10.1002/ijc.2910530205.


A series of 722 lung carcinomas, surgically resected and typed some years ago according to the 1967 WHO classification, was independently reviewed by 2 observers in order to test the reproducibility of histopathological typing when using the criteria of the 1981 WHO classification. Typing was fully agreed upon in 87% of cases. Agreement was very high for squamous-cell, small-cell and adeno-carcinomas (kappa = 0.87, 0.89 and 0.85, respectively) while adenosquamous (kappa = 0.56) and large-cell (kappa = 0.71) carcinomas were more controversial categories. A consensus diagnosis was formulated for lesions with discrepant diagnoses. When comparing the final typing to the previous typing based on the 1967 WHO classification, squamous- and large-cell carcinomas were reduced respectively by 22% and 33% and adenocarcinomas increased by 94% of the original number. The 1981 "adenosquamous carcinoma" category included 2.8% of the tumours, while the corresponding 1967 category "combined epidermoid and adenocarcinoma" was empty. These changes must be taken into account when considering epidemiological studies, especially those aiming at evaluation of the secular trends of lung cancer by cell type.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / classification
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / classification
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / classification
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / classification
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / classification*
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Observer Variation
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • World Health Organization