Background: In view of the many studies of early stage colorectal carcinoma from Japan, it is essential to know whether the criteria for the histologic diagnosis of colorectal carcinoma are similar in Japan and Western countries.
Methods: Eight expert pathologists from Japan (4), North America (2), and Europe (2) individually reviewed microscope slides of 20 colorectal lesions from Japanese patients who had undergone endoscopic mucosal resection or surgery because early stage carcinoma and/or adenoma was suspected. The pathologists indicated the pathologic findings on which they based each diagnosis.
Results: For 11 slides that showed adenoma according to the Western pathologists with low grade dysplasia according to at least half of them, the Japanese diagnosed definite carcinoma with or without adenoma in 4 cases and adenoma in 5, and in 2 cases they were equally divided between a diagnosis of adenoma and carcinoma. For five slides showing adenoma with high grade dysplasia according to the Western pathologists, the Japanese diagnosed definite carcinoma with adenoma in three cases and adenoma in one, and in one case they were equally divided between a diagnosis of adenoma and carcinoma. For one case in which the Western pathologists were equally divided between a diagnosis of carcinoma and adenoma with high grade dysplasia, all the Japanese pathologists diagnosed definite carcinoma with or without adenoma. Three slides showed definite carcinoma with or without adenoma, according to both the Western and the Japanese pathologists. The presence of invasion was the most important diagnostic criterion of colorectal carcinoma for the Western pathologists, whereas for the Japanese the nuclear features and glandular structures were more important.
Conclusions: In Japan, colorectal carcinoma is diagnosed on the basis of nuclear and structural criteria, even in cases considered by Western pathologists to be noninvasive lesions with low grade dysplasia. This diagnostic practice may contribute to the relatively high incidence of early stage colorectal carcinoma reported in Japan as compared with Western countries.