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Apocrine lesions of the breast: part 1 of a two-part review: benign, atypical and in situ apocrine proliferations of the breast
  1. Clare D'Arcy,
  2. Cecily Quinn
  1. Department of Histopathology, St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Clare D'Arcy, Department of Histopathology, Breast Check, Irish National Breast Screening Programme and St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin 4, Ireland; clare.darcy{at}


Apocrine morphology is a common phenomenon encountered in everyday breast pathology practice, and is defined as cuboidal or columnar cells exhibiting abundant eosinophilic granular cytoplasm, prominent apical granules, a low nuclear-cytoplasmic ratio, and round nuclei with pale chromatin and prominent nucleoli. Apocrine morphology is recognised in benign, atypical and malignant lesions of the breast. The morphology of apocrine atypia and non-high-grade apocrine ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is less well defined due to the relative rarity of these lesions. In part 1 of this two-part review, we focus on the morphological characteristics of benign, atypical and in situ apocrine lesions of the breast, summarise the available data to date regarding distinction of atypical apocrine proliferations from non-high-grade apocrine DCIS and the biological significance of apocrine atypia, and provide practical guidance on handling these difficult lesions. Part 2 of this review will focus on the concept of pure apocrine carcinoma with emphasis on its definition and molecular data, including the current understanding of the molecular apocrine signature in breast carcinoma. We complete the review with a synopsis on the utility of immunohistochemistry in the diagnosis of apocrine lesions of the breast.

  • breast pathology
  • apocrine atypia
  • Apocrine Hyperplasia

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  • Handling editor Runjan Chetty.

  • Contributors CDA undertook the research and compilation of this article. CMQ made significant contributions to the editing of the article.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

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