The third pathway of colorectal carcinogenesis

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The majority of the colorectal carcinomas (CRC) arise in a vast mucosal area built with columnar cells and mucus-producing goblet cells. These carcinomas evolve via the conventional (tubular/villous) adenoma–carcinoma pathway, or the serrated adenoma–carcinoma pathway. Much less frequently CRC arise in the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) mucosal domain via the third pathway of colorectal carcinogenesis.


All publications on human colorectal GALT carcinomas in the literature were reviewed.


Only 23 GALT-carcinomas found in 20 patients are in record. The GALT carcinomas were detected at surveillance colonoscopic biopsy in 11 patients (four had ulcerative colitis, two were members of a Lynch syndrome family, two of a CRC family, one had familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), one prior colon adenomas and one a submucosal tumour), or at diagnostic colonoscopic biopsy in the remaining nine patients (three had rectal bleedings, two abdominal pains, one diverticular disease and one protracted constipation. In three, no ground disease or symptoms were provided). In six of the 23 GALT carcinomas, the luminal surface showed tumour cells, ulcerations or no descriptions were given. Ten (66.7%) of the remaining 15 GALT carcinomas showed on top, adenomas (n=8) or high-grade dysplasia (n=2).


The low frequency of GALT carcinomas might be explained by the fact that the colorectal mucosal areas occupied by GALT domains are minute. The finding that two-thirds of the 15 remaining GALT carcinomas (vide supra) were covered by high-grade dysplasia or by conventional adenomas strongly suggest that conventional non-invasive neoplasias might have preceded the majority of the GALT carcinomas in record.

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