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Cancer Health Center

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Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Adult LCH


Presenting symptoms from published studies are (in order of decreasing frequency) dyspnea or tachypnea, polydipsia and polyuria, bone pain, lymphadenopathy, weight loss, fever, gingival hypertrophy, ataxia, and memory problems. The signs of LCH are skin rash, scalp nodules, soft tissue swelling near bone lesions, lymphadenopathy, gingival hypertrophy, and hepatosplenomegaly. Patients who present with isolated diabetes insipidus should be carefully observed for onset of other symptoms or signs characteristic of LCH. At least 80% of patients with diabetes insipidus had involvement of other organ systems, including bone (68%), skin (57%), lung (39%), and lymph nodes (18%).[5]

Skin and oral cavity

Thirty-seven percent of adults with LCH have skin involvement which usually occurs as part of multisystem disease. Skin-only LCH occurs but it is less common in adults than in children. The prognosis of adults with skin-only LCH is excellent, with 100% probability of 5-year survival. The cutaneous involvement is clinically similar to that seen in children and may take many forms.[6] Infra-mammary and vulvar involvement may be seen in adult women with skin LCH.

Many patients have a papular rash with brown, red, or crusted areas ranging from the size of a pinhead to a dime. In the scalp, the rash is similar to that of seborrhea. Skin in the inguinal region, genitalia, or around the anus may have open ulcers that do not heal after antibacterial or antifungal therapy. The lesions are usually asymptomatic but may be pruritic or painful. In the mouth, swollen gums or ulcers along the cheeks, roof of the mouth, or tongue may be signs of LCH.

Diagnosis of LCH is usually made by skin biopsy performed for persistent skin lesions.[6]


The relative frequency of bone involvement in adults differs from that in children: mandible (30% vs. 7%) and skull (21% vs. 40%).[2,3,4,5] The frequency of vertebrae (13%), pelvis (13%), extremities (17%), and rib (6%) lesions in adults are similar to those found in children.[2]


Pulmonary LCH in adults is usually single-system disease, but in a minority of patients other organs may be involved, including bone (18%), skin (13%), and diabetes insipidus (5%).[7]

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