Which histologic findings indicate the squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) subtype of non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)?

Updated: Jul 15, 2021
  • Author: Winston W Tan, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Nagla Abdel Karim, MD, PhD  more...
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The updated World Health Organization (WHO) classification of lung cancer is widely used. Non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) includes squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. Some lung cancers exhibit two or more histologic patterns. SCC was previously the most common type of NSCLC, but adenocarcinoma appears to be increasing in incidence, especially in women.

SCC has a distinct dose-response relationship to tobacco smoking and usually develops in proximal airways, progressing through stages of squamous metaplasia to carcinoma in situ. Well-differentiated SCCs contain keratin pearls, while poorly differentiated SCCs may stain positive for keratin. Microscopic examination reveals cells with large, irregular nuclei and coarse nuclear chromatin with large nucleoli. Cells are arranged in sheets, and the presence of intercellular bridging is diagnostic.

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