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Multifocal hyperplasia of interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC hyperplasia) is a precursor of hereditary gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) in patients with germline mutations of c-KIT or PDGFRA, but precursor lesions of sporadic GISTs have not been defined yet. Small hyalinizing stromal tumors of the proximal stomach (referred to in this study as GIST tumorlets) were collected prospectively from 98 consecutive autopsies and additional cases were retrieved from surgical pathology files (total n=57). GIST tumorlets were grossly detectable in 22.5% consecutive autopsies performed in individuals older than 50 years. All lesions were located in the cardia, fundus, or proximal body, and ranged in size from 1 to 10 mm (4 mm). Similar lesions were not detected in the antrum, duodenum, and the remainder of the bowel. Histologically, the spindle cell subtype comprised all cases, with hyalinization and calcification in 57% of cases. The spindle cells were immunohistochemically positive for vimentin, CD117, and CD34. Twenty-four cases yielded sufficient DNA for subsequent molecular analysis, which showed c-KIT mutations in 11 cases (46%) and PDGFRA mutations in 1 case (4%). Sporadic GIST tumorlets of the proximal stomach are common in the general population over the age of 50 years and frequently show somatic c-KIT mutations. GIST tumorlets probably represent the grossly recognizable counterpart of sporadic ICC hyperplasia caused by somatic c-KIT or PDGFRA mutations. Early hyalinization and calcification seems to confer limited growth potential, and complete regression of such lesions is common. GIST tumorlets likely represent preclinical (preneoplastic) lesions that need additional stimuli to evolve into clinical GISTs, raising the possibility of a hyperplasia-neoplasia sequence in the development of sporadic GISTs.