Background Bowen's disease (BD) is a squamous cell carcinoma in situ that rarely invades into the underlying dermis. However, little is known about its immunohistology. Objectives To evaluate the relationship between the cytological properties of the tumour cells in BD and the host immune response. Methods We examined the expression of p53, proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) and Ki67 antigen, and the number of mitotic cells, together with the number of intratumoral and dermal infiltrating CD1a+, CD3+, CD4+, CD8+, CD68+ and cutaneous lymphocyte-associated antigen (CLA)+ cells in 18 cases of genital BD. Results When compared with normal genital skin (n = 10), there was a significantly higher number of mitotic cells as well as higher expression of p53+, PCNA+ and Ki67+ cells in BD. There was significant mutual correlation between CD3+, CD4+ and CD68+ cells in the tumoral epidermis. The number of CD1a+ Langerhans cells significantly decreased in BD epidermis; however, dermal CD1a+ cells were increased. Interestingly, numbers of dermal CD1a+ cells significantly correlated with those of intratumoral CD3+, CD4+ and CD68+ cells. In situ hybridization for human papillomavirus (HPV) demonstrated that HPV-infected BD had significantly less infiltration of intratumoral CD3+ cells and CLA+ cells. Conclusions The present data suggest that dermal CD1a+ cells may participate in the immune surveillance and that HPV infection may interfere with the intratumoral infiltration of CLA+ cells in BD.
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