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Am J Dermatopathol. 2004 Dec;26(6):447-51.

Cytokeratin 5/6 immunostaining in cutaneous adnexal neoplasms and metastatic adenocarcinoma.

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Departments of Pathology and Dermatology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.


The differentiation of primary cutaneous adnexal neoplasms (CANs) from dermal-based metastatic lesions can be difficult. Cytokeratin 5/6 (CK 5/6) has a relatively limited expression profile, being relatively specific for mesothelium and other "pavement" type epithelium such as squamous epithelium. To date, the degree and distribution of CK 5/6 expression in cutaneous neoplasms has not been extensively studied. We speculate that since most of CANs arise from similar epithelium, they should express CK 5/6 and, therefore, CK 5/6 could potentially be helpful in distinguishing these lesions from most of metastatic neoplasms, which usually do not express this marker. Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue sections from 228 previously classified CANs and 27 metastatic adenocarcinomas (17 breast, 4 colon, 2 prostate, 2 ovary, 1 lung, and 1 esophagus) were immunostained with anti-CK 5/6. Anti-CK 5/6 labeled 2 of 2 proliferating trichilemmal tumors, 6 of 6 poromas, 4 of 5 hydrocystomas, 10 of 10 cylindromas, 10 of 10 eccrine acrospiromas, 8 of 10 pilomatricoma, 10 of 10 nevus sebaceus, 9 of 9 desmoplastic trichoepitheliomas, 7 of 7 nevus sebaceus with basal cell carcinomas, 10 of 10 pilar cysts, 14 of 14 trichilemmomas, 10 of 10 syringomas, 6 of 7 chondroid syringomas, 10 of 10 hidradenoma papilliferum, 9 of 9 sebaceus adenomas, 3 of 3 microcystic adnexal carcinomas, 10 of 10 eccrine spiradenomas, 4 of 4 syringocystadenoma papilliferum, 3 of 5 ocular sebaceous carcinomas, 28 of 28 basal cell carcinomas, 16 of 16 trichoepitheliomas, and 33 of 33 trichoepitheliomas with basal cell features. By contrast, 9 of 27 metastatic adenocarcinomas stained positively, although only two of these stained strongly. Cumulatively, CK 5/6 was expressed by most (97%) of CANs, while only 33% of metastatic adenocarcinomas showed positive expression. The sensitivity of this marker in the malignant lesions (other than basal cell carcinoma) is 78%, while the specificity is 67%. If all lesions are considered, the sensitivity increases to 97%. Therefore, CK 5/6 may prove to be a useful adjunct marker in distinguishing CANs from metastatic lesions.

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