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Ectopic sebaceous glands in the esophagus: a case report and review of literature.
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PMID:  19568506     Owner:  NLM     Status:  PubMed-not-MEDLINE    
Ectopic sebaceous glands occur rarely in the esophagus. A 65-year-old man presented with a history of discomfort during swallowing since the last 4 months. On upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, multiple wart-like grayish-yellow projections were detected and two of them were biopsied. Microscopically, they proved to be sebaceous glands in the esophagus. Histogenesis of this rare lesion is discussed in this case report.
Ramachandra V Bhat; Rupnarayan R Ramaswamy; Lakshmana Kumar C Yelagondahally
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Saudi journal of gastroenterology : official journal of the Saudi Gastroenterology Association     Volume:  14     ISSN:  1319-3767     ISO Abbreviation:  Saudi J Gastroenterol     Publication Date:  2008 Apr 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2009-07-01     Completed Date:  2009-12-11     Revised Date:  2013-05-23    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  9516979     Medline TA:  Saudi J Gastroenterol     Country:  Saudi Arabia    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  83-4     Citation Subset:  -    
Department of Pathology, Sri R L Jalappa Hospital and Research Centre, Tamaka, Kolar, Karnataka, India.
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Journal Information
Journal ID (nlm-ta): Saudi J Gastroenterol
Journal ID (publisher-id): SJG
ISSN: 1319-3767
ISSN: 1998-4049
Publisher: Medknow Publications, India
Article Information
? Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology
Received Day: 11 Month: 6 Year: 2007
Accepted Day: 09 Month: 10 Year: 2007
Print publication date: Month: 4 Year: 2008
Volume: 14 Issue: 2
First Page: 83 Last Page: 84
ID: 2702897
PubMed Id: 19568506
Publisher Id: SJG-14-83
DOI: 10.4103/1319-3767.39624

Ectopic Sebaceous Glands in the Esophagus: A Case Report and Review of Literature
Ramachandra V. BhatAF0001
Rupnarayan R. RamaswamyAF0001
Lakshmana Kumar C. Yelagondahally1
Department of Pathology, Sri R.L. Jalappa Hospital and Research Centre, Tamaka, Kolar-563 101, Karnataka, India
1Department of Medicine, Sri R.L. Jalappa Hospital and Research Centre, Tamaka, Kolar-563 101, Karnataka, India
Correspondence: Address: Dr. Ramachandra V. Bhat, Department of Pathology, Sri R.L. Jalappa Hospital and Research Centre, Tamaka, Kolar - 563 101, Karnataka, India. E-mail:

Sebaceous glands are derived from the ectoderm. Ectopic sebaceous glands have been reported in various sites such as lips and mouth (in Fordyce's disease) eyes, orbits, palms and soles, salivary glands, tongue and larynx. In esophagus, which is an endodermally derived organ, the presence of ectopic sebaceous glands is rare.[1] This condition was described in only 19 living individuals in previous studies.[2?4]


A 65-year-old man presented with a history of discomfort during swallowing since the last 4 months. There was no history of vomiting or hematemesis and weight loss. The patient was not a chronic smoker or an alcoholic. No history of chronic tobacco chewing was reported. General physical examination was unremarkable. Respiratory and cardiovascular systems were normal. Clinically, carcinoma of esophagus was suspected, and upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy was performed.

Endoscopy findings

On upper GI video endoscopy, multiple (nearly 20) grayish-yellow nodular projections of 2?4 mm diameter were noticed in the middle and lower esophagus. Endoscopy also revealed features of mild chronic gastritis. Endoscopic diagnosis of papillomata was suggested; punch biopsy from two of the yellowish projections was performed and sent for histopathological examination.

Histopathological examination

Microscopically, the non-keratinized stratified squamous epithelial lining showed minimal hyperplasia. The subepithelial area revealed lobulated sebaceous glands, deep in lamina propria. Each lobule consisted of polygonal cells with small nuclei and abundant clear cytoplasm [Figure 1]. No hair follicle was observed.

Mild lymphocytic infiltration was seen in the vicinity of the sebaceous glands. No histological features suggestive of reflux or infectious esophagitis were noted. Histological diagnosis of ectopic sebaceous glands in the esophagus was made.

The patient was treated symptomatically with antacids and omeprazole for one month, and he became symptom free and remained so at two years of follow up.


The presence of ectopic sebaceous glands was first described in lips and oral cavity by Fordyce in1896 (the condition was called Fordyce's disease). Since then, it has been described in various other sites, such as eyes and orbits, palms and soles, parotid glands, and larynx.

However, in 1962, De La Pava and Pickren first reported the presence of sebaceous glands in an endodermally derived organ, the esophagus.[1] The authors reported such occurrences in 4 of the 200 unselected cadavers during an autopsy study.

Ectopic sebaceous glands in esophagus were first observed during endoscopy by Ramakrishnan and Brinker[5] in 1978 in a 44-year-old nonsmoker. The lesions may be single or multiple,[6] sometimes more than hundred.[2, 3] Although no specific clinical symptoms attributable to esophageal sebaceous glands have been identified, some patients may experience symptoms such as heartburn and discomfort during swallowing.[2]


The most interesting aspect of this condition is histogenesis, which is not completely clear. Several hypotheses have been postulated.[4]

  1. Metaplasia theory: This is favored by the occurrence of this condition in the elderly, and not in children, and because the arrangement of these glands are similar to that of esophageal submucosal glands.
  2. Heterotopia theory (embryological misplacement): This theory is not supported by endoscopic studies and autopsy studies conducted on infants and children.[2]

There were no reports on any significant complications resulting from this condition. Endoscopic follow-up in such cases after a period of 8 months to 5 years showed no significant variation in the number or size of these lesions.[7] Moreover, malignant tumors arising from such ectopic sebaceous glands have never been reported.

Most of these lesions appear to be harmless, and only symptomatic treatment or anti-reflux treatment is advised.[2] Ectopic sebaceous glands should be differentiated from other submucosal tumors, and proliferative mucosal lesions such as granular cell tumor, leiomyoma and papilloma. In our case, microscopic features were very characteristic of sebaceous glands.


Ectopic sebaceous glands in esophagus are a very rare occurrence. It probably represents a metaplastic change in the esophageal submucosal glands. Here, we reported this rare occurrence in a 65-year-old male.


Source of Support: Nil

Conflict of Interest: None declared.

We are thankful to the Medical Superintendent of Sri R.L. Jalappa Hospital, Kolar, for giving permission to publish this article.

1. De La Pava S,Pickren JW. Ectopic sebaceous glands in the oesophagusArch PatholYear: 196273397913884272
2. Bertoni G,Sassatelli R,Nigrisoli E,Conigliaro R,Bedogni G. Ectopic sebaceous glands in the oesophagus: Report of three new cases and review of literatureAm J GastroenterolYear: 199489188477942688
3. Hoshika K,Inoue S,Mizuno M,Iida M,Shimizu M. Endoscopic detection of ectopic multiple minute sebaceous glands in the esophagus: Report of a case and review of literatureDig Dis SciYear: 199540287907851191
4. Bae JY,Chon CY,Kim H. Sebaceous glands in the esophagusJ Kor Med SciYear: 1996112714
5. Ramakrishnan T,Brinker JE. Ectopic sebaceous glands in the oesophagusGastrointest EndoscYear: 1978242934730006
6. Hoshihara Y,Hashimoto M,Yoshida Y,Hayakawa K,Fukuchi S,Unakami M. Ectopic sebaceous glands in esophagus: Report of two casesDig EndoscYear: 199132479
7. Kumagai Y,Makuuchi H,Ohmori T,Mukai M. Four cases of ectopic sebaceous glands confirmed endoscopically in the oesophagusDig EndoscYear: 1993523844


[Figure ID: F0001]
Figure 1 

Microphotograph showing stratified squamous epithelium and sebaceous glands in lobules (H&E, ?100)

Article Categories:
  • Case Report

Keywords: Esophagus, sebaceous glands.

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