Topic Completed: 1 December 2013

Revised: 27 February 2019

Copyright: 2003-2019,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Mucoepidermoid carcinoma esophagus

Elliot Weisenberg, M.D.
Page views in 2019: 583
Page views in 2020 to date: 210
Cite this page: Weisenberg E. Mucoepidermoid carcinoma. website. Accessed April 3rd, 2020.
Definition / general
  • Definition, per salivary gland section of WHO head and neck tumors:
    • Malignant glandular epithelial neoplasm characterized by mucous, intermediate and epidermoid cells with columnar, clear cell and oncocytic features
    • Currently most authorities would exclude squamous cell carcinoma with glandular areas
  • Using strict criteria, true mucoepidermoid carcinomas of the esophagus is very rare
  • Arise from submucosal glands of the esophagus
Clinical features
  • True mucoepidermoid carcinoma of the esophagus likely has a good prognosis
  • Most published cases with a purported poor prognosis likely represent squamous or undifferentiated carcinoma with mucoepidermoid areas (Hum Pathol 1978;9:352, J Nippon Med Sch 2003;70:401)
  • Endoscopic biopsy
Case reports
  • 61 year old man with cooccurrence of mucoepidermoid carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus (Surg Today 2000;30:636)
  • 67 year old man with mucoepidermoid carcinoma of the esophagus treated by endoscopic mucosal resection (Dis Esophagus 2003;16:265)
  • 70 year old man with diffuse pagetoid squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus combined with choriocarcinoma and mucoepidermoid carcinoma (Pathol Int 2002;52:147)
  • Mucoepidermoid carcinoma of the esophagus (Hum Pathol 1978;9:352)
  • Surgical resection
Gross description
  • Usually small, intramucosal lesions covered by an intact mucosa
Microscopic (histologic) description
  • Per WHO:
    • Squamoid (epidermoid) mucus producing and cells of intermediate type
    • Proportion of different cell types and their architectural configuration (including cyst formation) varies in and between tumors
    • Usually multicystic with a solid component, which may dominate
    • Some tumors have defined borders but infiltration of gland parenchyma is evident
    • Cystic spaces are lined by mucus cells with basaloid or cuboidal intermediate cells interspersed and to a lesser degree, polygonal epidermoid cells but keratinization is rare
    • Mucus cells are large, with pale cytoplasm and peripherally displaced nuclei; they typically constitute < 10% of tumor
    • Clear, columnar or oncoytic cells may be present and occasionally are prominent
Positive stains
Differential diagnosis
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