AIM: To examine the value of immunohistochemistry in defining a keratin profile to aid cervical histopathological diagnosis. METHODS: Immunohistochemical localisation of keratins 17, 10, and 19 was studied in 268 cervical biopsies from 216 women including normal epithelia (with and without human papilloma virus), low and high grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, and invasive carcinoma. The percentage of positive immunostaining was scored using a Kontron MOP videoplan image analyser. RESULTS: All major categories of cervical epithelia expressed these keratins to varying degrees. The median percentage of immunostaining for keratin 10 was 40% in normal tissue compared with just 1% in invasive carcinoma (p < 0.0001). The medians for keratin 17 were 0% in the normal group and 80% in carcinomas (p < 0.0001). By contrast, there was no significant difference in staining for keratin 19. Using a combination of the keratin 10 and 17 percentages, it was possible to separate the carcinomas from the benign conditions with a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 93%. Further analyses within the groups revealed more extensive staining for keratins 10 and 19 in reserve cell hyperplasia, immature squamous metaplasia, and congenital transformation zone. CONCLUSIONS: The morphological variety within the cervix is reflected, in part, by distinct keratin patterns. There are striking differences in the patterns of keratins 10 and 17 between infiltrating squamous carcinoma and normal cervical epithelia.
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