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Melanocytes and melanosis of the oesophagus in Japanese subjects--analysis of factors effecting their increase.

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2nd Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Japan.


Normal oesophagus specimens taken from 65 autopsy cases and surgical specimens from 127 oesophageal carcinoma cases were examined histopathologically to determine melanocyte incidence and distribution. Melanocytes were found in the epithelio-stromal junction in 7.7% of normal oesophagus specimens examined at autopsy, and in 29.9% of surgical cases with oesophageal carcinoma. Positive specimens in the latter groups, especially from pre-operatively irradiated individuals, showed a more remarkable increase of melanocytes than was evident in any of the normal oesophageal samples. There were no significant differences in incidence between males and females, or between age groups. In cases where the cancer invaded into deeper stroma, the melanocytes were mainly observed in the normal epithelium around the carcinomas. Epithelial and stromal elements of the melanotic mucosa commonly showed hyperplastic changes such as acanthosis or basal cell hyperplasia, and chronic oesophagitis. Melanocytes were observed most commonly in the lower part of the oesophagus, the site where malignant melanoma of the oesophagus, most often originates. These results strongly suggest that the melanocyte increase observed in areas of hyperplastic epithelium and chronic oesophagitis may play an important role as a precursor lesion for malignant melanoma in the oesophagus.

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