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Atypical hyperplasia

Atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH)

Reviewer: Hind Nassar, M.D., Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions (see Reviewers page)
Revised: 4 October 2012, last major update October 2011
Copyright: (c) 2001-2012, PathologyOutlines.com, Inc.


● Neoplastic intraductal lesion with architectural and cytological features suggestive but not diagnostic of low grade DCIS


● Also called DIN 1B, atypical intraductal hyperplasia (AIDH)


● May be present in women as young as 18-26 years (Am J Surg Pathol 1992;16:246)
● Rates have decreased over past decade, possibly due to significant reduction in use of postmenopausal hormonal therapy (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2009;18:2822)


● ADH and coexisting cancers may arise independently in field of increased cancer risk, as genetic changes (at 1q and 16q) are not identical (J Pathol 2006;209:307)

Clinical features

● Increased risk of carcinoma in pre- or post-menopausal women of 4-5 x, equal in both breasts; risk is 10x if first degree relative has breast cancer (Cancer 1985;55:2698)

Prognostic features

● Less risk if 0-2 foci at core biopsy (see below)


ADH at core biopsy: excision recommended since it can be associated with DCIS and invasive carcinoma, particularly if target lesion is not completely excised (Am J Surg Pathol 2002;26:1095)
● Same recommendation with 11 gauge (Ann Surg Oncol 2007;14:2497) or 9 gauge needles (AJR Am J Roentgenol 2007;188:684)
● Page found no worse lesion at excision if ADH limited to 0-2 foci at core biopsy (Am J Surg Pathol 2001;25:1017) but other studies have found malignancy in 12% of these cases (Radiology 2010;255:723)
ADH at margin: reexcision is controversial, recommended by some since 25% may have DCIS or invasive carcinoma at reexcision (Ann Surg Oncol 2008;15:843)

Micro description

● Usually less than 2-3 mm, may be multicentric
● Must rule out DCIS (Breast Cancer Res 2003;5:254)
● Micropapillae, tufts, bridges, solid and cribriform patterns of evenly distributed, monomorphic cells with rounded or ovoid nuclei
● Either closely mixed with epithelial ductal hyperplasia (without atypia) or only partially involving the terminal duct lobular unit
● Perineural invasion is rare and usually associated with sclerosing adenosis or radial scar (Hum Pathol 2001;32:785)
● Variable microcalcifications
● Recommended to include size of lesion in surgical pathology report

Either (a), (b) or (c) AND no high grade cytology (Stanford University):
(a) Ducts are completely filled and exhibit sharp punched out spaces or micropapillae but lack uniform cytologic features due to partial population of columnar cells or focal streaming of cells
(b) Ducts filled by uniform population of cells with cytologic features of low grade DCIS but lack architectural features due to only partial filling of ducts or no uniformly sharp punched out spaces, microacini or characteristic micropapillae AND have excluded solid low grade DCIS
(c) Cytologic and architectural features of DCIS but lesion is too small (fewer than two duct spaces involved or less than 2-3 mm in aggregate dimension)

Micro images

AFIP Fig 220: cells don't stream and are haphazardly arranged in cellular bridges with mitotic activity (arrows), but secondary lumina are irregular

AFIP Fig 221: cells have uniform size and shape, small foci of necrosis and calficiation, but secondary lumina are irregular and more numerous at periphery

Fig 234: uniform cells but irregular secondary lumina

Fig 222: rounded secondary lumens and heterogenous cell population

Fig 223: ducts are lined by crowded, hyperplastic, tall columnar cells forming small papillae


Fig 224-225: Papillary proliferation of multilayered epithelium involving only part of duct




Other images

Various images of ADH at core biopsy

Usual ductal hyperplasia (CK903+) versus ADH (CK903-)

Contributed by Dr. Marilin Rosa, University of Florida - ADH involving areas of sclerosing adenosis in complex sclerosing lesion

ADH and subsequent invasive carcinoma

Virtual slides


ALH and ADH involving a fibroadenoma

Flat epithelial atypia with ADH and calcification

Cytology description

● Three-dimensional cells with uniform nuclei and occasional mild atypia

Cytology images


Ductal lavage

Negative stains

● CK903, CK 5/6, HER2, p53

Differential diagnosis

Low grade DCIS: larger lesion involving entire terminal duct lobular unit, uniform cells, no secondary lumina
Columnar cell lesion: prominent apical cytoplasmic snouts and intraluminal secretions
Flat epithelial atypia: replacement of epithelial cells by single or stratified layer of cells with low grade cytologic atypia resembling low grade DCIS, but does not fulfill criteria of ADH or low grade DCIS

End of Breast-nonmalignant > Atypical hyperplasia > Atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH)

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