Langerhans cell histiocytosis is a disease that can damage tissue or cause lesions to form in one or more places in the body.
Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) is a rare disease that occurs when the body makes too many Langerhans cells. A Langerhans cell is a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection. Langerhans cells (also called histiocytes) are normally found in the skin, lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, and lungs. In LCH, extra Langerhans cells spread through the blood and build up in certain parts of the body, where they can damage tissue or form tumors.
Scientists do not agree on whether LCH is a type of cancer or is a condition caused by a change in the immune system. LCH is often treated with anticancer drugs that may also be used to treat immune system conditions.
LCH may occur at any age, but is most common in young children. The treatment of LCH in children and adults is described in separate sections.
Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with childhood Langerhans cell histiocytosis. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
Having a parent who was exposed to certain chemicals and family history may increase the risk of developing LCH.
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get the disease; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get the disease. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor. Risk factors for LCH may include the following:
- Having a parent who was exposed to certain chemicals such as benzene.
- Having infections as a newborn.
- Having a family history of thyroid disease.
The cause of LCH is unknown.
The signs and symptoms of LCH depend on where it occurs in the body.
These and other symptoms may be caused by LCH. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:
In infants, signs and symptoms of LCH may include:
- Flaking of the scalp that may look like "cradle cap".
- Raised, brown or purple spots anywhere on the body.
In children and adults, signs and symptoms of LCH may include:
- Flaking of the scalp that may look like dandruff.
- Raised, red or brown, crusted rash in the groin area, abdomen, back or chest.
- Bumps or ulcers behind the ears, on the scalp, or in the groin area.