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Mod Pathol. 2014 Jan;27(1):19-29. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2013.117. Epub 2013 Jun 28.

Adult-onset mastocytosis in the skin is highly suggestive of systemic mastocytosis.

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Institute of Pathology, University of Munich, Munich, Germany.
Department of Dermatology and Allergology, University of Munich, Munich, Germany.
MLL Munich Leukemia Laboratory, Munich, Germany.
Institute of Pathology, University of Schleswig Holstein, Lübeck, Germany.


Adult-onset urticaria pigmentosa/mastocytosis in the skin almost always persists throughout life. The prevalence of systemic mastocytosis in such patients is not precisely known. Bone marrow biopsies from 59 patients with mastocytosis in the skin and all available skin biopsies (n=27) were subjected to a meticulous cytological, histological, immunohistochemical, and molecular analysis for the presence of WHO-defined diagnostic criteria for systemic mastocytosis: compact mast cell infiltrates (major criterion); atypical mast cell morphology, KIT D816V, abnormal expression of CD25 by mast cells, and serum tryptase levels >20 ng/ml (minor criteria). Systemic mastocytosis is diagnosed when the major diagnostic criterion plus one minor criterion or at least three minor criteria are fulfilled. Systemic mastocytosis was confirmed in 57 patients (97%) by the diagnosis of compact mast cell infiltrates plus at least one minor diagnostic criterion (n=42, 71%) or at least three minor diagnostic criteria (n=15, 25%). In two patients, only two minor diagnostic criteria were detectable, insufficient for the diagnosis of systemic mastocytosis. By the use of highly sensitive molecular methods, including the analysis of microdissected mast cells, KIT D816V was found in all 58 bone marrow biopsies investigated for it but only in 74% (20/27) of the skin biopsies. It is important to state that even in cases with insufficient diagnostic criteria for systemic mastocytosis, KIT D816V-positive mast cells were detected in the bone marrow. This study demonstrates, for the first time, that almost all patients with adult-onset mastocytosis in the skin, in fact, have systemic mastocytosis with cutaneous involvement.

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