Eosinophils in Mycosis Fungoides: An Uncommon Finding in the Patch and Plaque Stages

Department of Dermatology, Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, PA 17821, USA.
The American Journal of dermatopathology (Impact Factor: 1.39). 08/2012; 34(6):586-91. DOI: 10.1097/DAD.0b013e31823d921b
Source: PubMed


Early diagnosis of mycosis fungoides (MF) is one of the most challenging problems in dermatopathology, as the histopathologic features of inflammatory dermatoses and MF may show significant overlap. One criterion used to distinguish early MF (patch stage) from dermatitis, which may be currently underutilized, is the presence of eosinophils. A search was performed for cases with a preoperative diagnosis of MF, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, or dermatitis, which included 29 cases "diagnostic" for MF, 25 cases "suspicious" for MF, and 55 cases of spongiotic dermatitis. We examined tissue sections blinded to diagnosis to obtain an exact eosinophil count. Twenty-nine cases were diagnostic for MF (12 patch, 9 plaque, and 8 tumor stage). The average eosinophil count for cases diagnostic for patch stage MF was 1 eosinophil in 10 (0.11) sections examined. For plaque MF, there was 1 eosinophil in 5 (0.24) sections examined. All tumor stage MF cases showed abundant eosinophils within each section. Twenty-five cases were suspicious for MF (15 patches, 9 plaques, and 1 folliculotropic). The average eosinophil count for the patch lesions was 1 eosinophil in 4 (0.25) sections examined and 2 eosinophils per section for plaque lesions. Forty-five of 55 cases of spongiotic dermatitis had at least scattered eosinophils (>3) in each section. Twenty-three (47%) had eosinophils around most postcapillary venules. Only 3 of 45 patients (6.6%) with biopsies diagnostic or suspicious for patch or plaque stage MF showed >3 eosinophils per tissue section, whereas 45 of 55 (81.8%) biopsies of spongiotic dermatitis had >3. The presence of eosinophils (>3 per tissue section) is statistically significant in differentiating cases diagnostic or suspicious for patch or plaque stage MF from dermatitis (P < 0.0001). Our data indicate that eosinophils are uncommon in cases of patch and plaque MF. When a pathologist is faced with evaluating a biopsy that lacks some of the criteria used to make the diagnosis of patch stage MF, yet demonstrates >3 eosinophils per tissue section, dermatitis is the likely diagnosis. However, in cases where fewer than 3 eosinophils are present in sections, patch stage MF cannot be excluded.

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    ABSTRACT: Mycosis fungoides is a cutaneous T-cell lymphoma with protracted clinical course and progression in different stages with increasing aggressiveness. The clinical picture as well as the histopathology of mycosis fungoides within the early patch and plaque phase is difficult to delineate from some inflammatory skin diseases. Thus, the diagnosis of these early stages of the lymphoma is only possible when clinical, histopathological, and molecular features are integrated into the diagnosis, especially as none of the individual disease criteria is specific. Important clues towards the diagnosis of mycosis fungoides are cytologically abnormal epidermotropic CD4-positive T-cells causing only minor epidermal alterations, the formation of Pautrier-abscesses and basal alignment of the epidermotropic T-cells. The findings of an aberrant T-cell immunophenotype of the intraepidermal lymphoid component as well as the molecular proof of T-cell clonality are important further features. In the differential diagnosis between early stage mycosis fungoides and parapsoriasis, there remains nevertheless a diagnostic and maybe also a true biological grey zone.
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