• atypical cystic duct;
  • breast neoplasm;
  • precancerous lesion

To clarify the clinicopathological features of an atypical cystic duct (ACD) as defined by Tsuchiya’s criteria as a precancerous lesion of the breast, we used 200 whole mammary gland serial sections of breast cancer. Forty-four (22%) of the 200 breast cancer patients had ACD breast lesions. The frequency of patients with ACD increased in premenopausal women (P= 0.001). There was no correlation between the ACD-present group and the ACD-absent group for immunohistochemical status of the estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PgR), p53, or c-erbB2; Ki-67 labeling index of cancer tissues; size of tumor, or lymph node metastases. A number of ACD lesions displayed continuity to cancer lesions. In 500 serial sections of a paraffin-embedded tissue of a ACD case at 3 μm intervals, an apparent transition from ACD into ductal carcinoma in situ was observed. Immunohistochemical analysis using α-smooth muscle actin showed that myoepithelial cells of ACD stained strongly, and their nuclei and cytoplasm were thinning. In 16 of the 44 (36%) ACD-present patients, carcinoma cells stained positive for p53. Within those 16 cases, 12 cases (75%) were positive for p53 in ACD lesions. There was a significant correlation between the expression of p53 protein in malignant cells and ACD (P= 0.001). All 44 ACD lesions had no staining of c-erbB2, regardless of staining in malignant lesions. The mean Ki-67 labeling index of ACD lesions was low (0.3%), suggesting that ACD had a low proliferative rate. We suggest that ACD is the precancerous breast lesion because of a histologic continuum between ACD and malignancy, and because of p53 protein expression in ACD.