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Am J Surg Pathol. 1998 Jun;22(6):722-8.

C-cell hyperplasia and medullary thyroid carcinoma in patients routinely screened for serum calcitonin.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Pathology, University of Vienna, Medical School, Austria.


Routine screening of calcitonin serum levels in patients with nodular thyroid disorders has led to an increased rate of total thyroidectomies. We investigated prevalence and interrelationship of C-cell hyperplasia (CCH) and medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) in patients with thyroid and parathyroid disorders that showed increased calcitonin serum levels detected by routine screening. Within two years, 30 (mean age, 60 +/- 14 years) of 667 patients had a pentagastrin-stimulated calcitonin level of more than 100 pg/mL. All 30 underwent total thyroidectomy and were tested for germ-line mutations of the ret protooncogene. Entire surgical specimens were blocked, and C-cell disorders were assessed using conventional histology and immunohistochemistry. C-cell hyperplasia was defined by the presence of more than 50 C cells/l low-power field in both lobes and was classified as focal, diffuse, nodular, or neoplastic. Nineteen patients (female/male = 14/5) had MTC, and 11 males but no females had CCH only. Six of 16 patients with sporadic MTC had concomitant CCH. Three patients were index cases of new MTC families. We conclude that MTC with concomitant CCH is an unreliable marker for hereditary MTC risk and that CCH has a preneoplastic potential in the absence of germ-line mutations. In this series, CCH alone was not found in females.

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