• carcinoma;
  • mucoepidermoid;
  • mucoepidermoid tumor;
  • salivary gland neoplasm;
  • histopathology;
  • survival analysis;
  • multivariate analysis



Histopathologic grade of mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC) is an established predictor of prognosis and affects treatment protocol. Tumor behavior is more aggressive in high-grade than in low-grade MEC, leading to a more intensive treatment protocol. Outcomes for patients with intermediate-grade MEC are less clear; therefore, the optimal treatment protocol for this group is not well defined. The treatment protocol and survival outcomes of patients treated for MEC of the head and neck was investigated.


A retrospective clinical review and prospective review of histopathologic grading were undertaken using the most recently established grading system of 50 patients with MEC of the head and neck from 1983 through 2004.


As histologic grade increased from low to intermediate to high, overall survival (P < .0001) and disease-free survival (P < .001) were significantly decreased. Overall and disease-free survival were significantly better for patients with intermediate-grade MEC than those with high-grade disease. Overall and disease-free survival were similar for patients with low-grade and intermediate-grade MEC. There was a low rate of disease recurrence in patients with intermediate-grade MEC, but this did not lead to death from disease. Although no patients with low-grade or intermediate-grade MEC died of disease, 52% of patients with high-grade MEC died of disease. Multivariate analysis revealed that histologic grade, age, and surgical margin status significantly predicted prognosis.


These findings suggest that, under the current histopathologic classification system, the behavior of intermediate-grade MEC is comparable to that of low-grade MEC and different from high-grade MEC, allowing for the establishment of an evidence-based treatment protocol. Cancer 2008. © 2008 American Cancer Society.