Aberrant crypt foci (ACF) can be observed and quantified on the mucosal surface of formalin-fixed human colon resections after staining with methylene blue. To determine whether these ACF could be identified in fresh tissue, 10 colon resections were collected after surgery for colorectal cancer. Unfixed and fixed flat normal colonic mucosa from each colon were scored for ACF under a dissecting microscope after methylene blue staining. The number of ACF per cm2 and the average number of crypts per foci correlated highly in unfixed and fixed mucosa (r = 0.93 and 0.78, respectively). A significantly higher frequency of lesions was found in left-sided compared to right-sided colon resections. To determine whether the topographic features of the ACF gave an indication of the histological appearance, 68 specimens containing ACF or normal mucosa were examined histologically. The presence of slit-like lumen in the crypts of ACF on the mucosal surface correlated with the presence of dysplasia at histology, thus identifying microadenomas. These two observations suggest that the topographic classification of ACF in vivo could be used to distinguish microadenomas, a putative precursor lesion of colon cancer.

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