Apocrine metaplasia

December 5, 2023

Apocrine metaplasia

Apocrine metaplasia describes a change where the cells normally found in a tissue are replaced by cells that resemble the apocrine cells found in the skin. It constitutes a benign (non-cancerous) change. In pathology, metaplasia is the replacement of one type of differentiated cell with another.

Apocrine cells, characterized by their large size, round shape, prominent central nucleoli, and abundant granules in the cytoplasm, are a distinct type of glandular cell. When observed on an H&E stained slide, apocrine cells appear bright pink due to the strong reaction of the granules with eosin in the stain.

Apocrine cells

While apocrine metaplasia can occur in various tissues, it is most commonly associated with changes in breast tissue. In the breast, it is frequently observed in fibrocystic change and can manifest in benign cysts and usual ductal hyperplasia (UDH). Hormonal factors may influence the appearance of apocrine cells in breast tissue.

It’s crucial to differentiate apocrine metaplasia from apocrine hyperplasia or apocrine carcinoma. Apocrine hyperplasia involves an increase in the number of apocrine cells and is also a benign condition. Conversely, apocrine carcinoma is a type of breast cancer originating from malignant (cancerous) apocrine cells.

Pathologists often identify the presence of apocrine metaplasia through microscopic examination of tissue samples obtained by way of a biopsy. Although apocrine metaplasia itself is not considered precancerous, pathologists must distinguish it from other breast tissue changes and consider the overall clinical context when interpreting findings.

About this article

Doctors wrote this article to assist you in reading and comprehending your pathology report. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions about this article or your pathology report. To get a comprehensive introduction to your pathology report, read this article.

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