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Hum Pathol. 2006 Jul;37(7):787-93. Epub 2006 May 26.

Solid papillary ductal carcinoma in situ versus usual ductal hyperplasia in the breast: a potentially difficult distinction resolved by cytokeratin 5/6.

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Department of Pathology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


The solid papillary variant of ductal carcinoma in situ is an uncommon entity, which usually presents in the seventh or eighth decade and may be associated with invasive mucinous carcinoma. Solid papillary ductal carcinoma in situ (SP-DCIS) shares many morphological features with usual ductal hyperplasia (UDH) involving a papilloma: papillary architecture, solid growth, cellular streaming, and low-grade nuclear features. These similarities can make the distinction between these 2 entities challenging. Recent studies have demonstrated that immunohistochemical staining for cytokeratin 5/6 can distinguish UDH from conventional forms of ductal carcinoma in situ. Most of the epithelial cells of UDH express cytokeratin 5/6, but the tumor cells of ductal carcinoma in situ do not. We tested the hypothesis that the results of staining for cytokeratin 5/6 can distinguish UDH from the solid papillary variant of ductal carcinoma in situ. Immunohistochemical staining of 14 cases of SP-DCIS and 9 cases of UDH (4 involving papillomas) was performed using cytokeratin 5/6 antibody clone D5/16 B4. Strong cytoplasmic or membrane staining was considered positive. The hyperplastic cells in all cases of UDH showed strong staining for cytokeratin 5/6. The percentage of positive cells ranged from 50% to 80%. None of the SP-DCIS tumor cells stained for cytokeratin 5/6; however, many cases did show staining of occasional entrapped, benign epithelial, and myoepithelial cells. We conclude that the absence of strong cytokeratin 5/6 expression by SP-DCIS distinguishes it from its morphological mimic, UDH. Pathologists must guard against misinterpreting SP-DCIS as UDH in those cases in which the carcinoma cells engulf cytokeratin 5/6-expressing residual, native epithelial cells.

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