Infiltrating ductal adenocarcinoma of the pancreas is believed to arise from morphologically distinct noninvasive precursor lesions. These precursors include the intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm, the mucinous cystic neoplasm, and pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia. Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms are grossly visible mucin-producing epithelial neoplasms that arise in the main pancreatic duct or one of its branches. The cysts of mucinous cystic neoplasms do not communicate with the major pancreatic ducts, and these neoplasms are characterized by a distinct ovarian-type stroma. Pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia is a microscopic lesion. This article focuses on the clinical significance of these three important precursor lesions, with emphasis on their clinical manifestations, detection, and treatment.
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