Mucoepidermoid tumour of the lung


A malignant epithelial tumour composed of squamous cell, mucin-secreting cells and cells of intermediate type, identical to that occurring in the salivary glands.


Less than 1% of lung carcinomas are of mucoepidermoid type3. 50% of tumours occur in patients under 30 years of age3, including in children2. Most mucoepidermoid carcinomas are low grade.

Clinical features

Wheeze, asthma-like symptoms, haemoptysis and recurrent pneumonia result from bronchial obstruction.


Mucoepidermoid carcinomas form a well demarcated central mass. Punctate calcification may occur4.

Macroscopic appearances

The tumour is endobronchial and polypoidal. There is often cyst formation and a mucoid appearance. High grade lesions are more infiltrative.


Varying proportions of columnar, oncocytic and clear cells may be seen. Au unusual variant show a prominent lymphoplasmacytic component with Russell bodies and a giant cell reaction to inspissated mucus8. Similar tumour-associated lymphoid tissue has been described in salivary mucoepidermoid carcinomas.













Differential diagnosis


Resection. Low grade tumours may be removed by bronchoplastic sleeve resection3.


Low grade mucoepidermoid carcinoma spreads to local lymph nodes in less than 5% of cases. High grade tumours have a prognosis similar to that of non-small cell carcinomas and metastasis to regional lymph nodes, liver, bone, adrenal glands and brain1,3,7.


Tumours of the Lung, Pleura, Thymus and Heart. WHO Classification of Tumours. IARC Press 2004.

1 Conlan AA, Payne WS, Woolner LB, et al. Adenoid cystic carcinoma (cylindroma) and mucoepidermoid carcinoma of the bronchus. Factors affecting survival. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 1978; 76:369-77.

2 Granata C, Battistini E, Toma P, et al. Mucoepidermoid carcinoma of the bronchus: a case report and review of the literature. Pediatr Pulmonol 1997; 23:226-32

3 Heitmiller RF, Mathisen DJ, Ferry JA, et al. Mucoepidermoid lung tumors. Ann Thorac Surg 1989; 47:394-9

4 Kim TS, Lee KS, Han J, et al. Mucoepidermoid carcinoma of the tracheobronchial tree: radiographic and CT findings in 12 patients. Radiology 1999; 212:643-8

5 Reichle FA,Rosemond GP Mucoepidermoid tumors of the bronchus. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 1966; 51:443-8

6 Turnbull AD, Huvos AG, Goodner JT, et al. Mucoepidermoid tumors of bronchial glands. Cancer 1971; 28:539-44

7 Yousem SA,Hochholzer L Mucoepidermoid tumors of the lung. Cancer 1987; 60:1346-52

8 Shilo K, Foss RD, Franks TJ, et al. Pulmonary mucoepidermoid carcinoma with prominent tumor-associated lymphoid proliferation. Am J Surg Pathol 2005; 29:407-11

This page last revised 29.3.2005.

©SMUHT/PW Bishop