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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2008 Apr;132(4):615-21. doi: 10.1043/1543-2165(2008)132[615:FEAOTB]2.0.CO;2.

Flat epithelial atypia of the breast.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Flat epithelial atypia is a presumably neoplastic alteration of terminal duct-lobular units that is characterized by the replacement of the native luminal epithelium by ductal cells demonstrating low-grade cytologic atypia. The atypical cells maintain a "flat" pattern of growth without evidence of architectural atypicality. Morphologic, immunohistochemical, and molecular investigations support that flat epithelial atypia represents an early step in the evolution of low-grade ductal carcinomas. It is frequently seen in association with atypical ductal hyperplasia, low-grade ductal carcinoma in situ, invasive tubular carcinoma, and lobular neoplasia. The risk for subsequent breast carcinoma remains to be defined, but flat epithelial atypia likely represents a nonobligate precursor with an extended time course to progression. Certain benign alterations may superficially mimic its appearance; careful attention to cytologic and architectural characteristics can help one distinguish these unrelated entities from flat epithelial atypia.

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