Background: No consensus exists on whether flat epithelial atypia (FEA) diagnosed percutaneously should be surgically excised. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the frequency of upgrade to cancer or an atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH) at surgical excision of FEA was performed. Methods: Embase, MEDLINE, Scopus, and Web of Science databases from January 2003 to November 2015 were searched. The inclusion criteria required a manuscript in English with original data on FEA diagnosed percutaneously, data including the presence or absence of other concurrent high-risk lesions, and data including outcome of cancer at surgical excision. Studies were assessed for quality, and two reviewers extracted data. Random-effects meta-analysis was used to pool estimates. The impact of study-level characteristics was assessed by stratified meta-analysis and meta-regression. Results: The inclusion criteria was met by 32 studies. A total of 1966 core needle biopsies showed pure FEA, and 1517 (77%) showed surgical excision. The proportions of patients with upgrade to cancer varied from 0 to 42%, with an overall pooled estimate of 11.1%. Heterogeneity was observed, with the greatest impact based on whether a study included cases of FEA diagnosed before 2003. With restriction of the investigation to 16 higher-quality studies, the cancer upgrade pooled estimate was 7.5% (95% confidence interval [CI], 5.4–10.4%), and the rate of invasive cancer was 3% (95% CI 1.9–4.5%). For upgrade to ADH, data from 22 studies including 937 patients were analyzed. The proportion of patients upgraded to ADH ranged from 0 to 60%, with a pooled estimate of 17.9% overall and 18.6% among high-quality studies. Conclusions: With patient management change potential for approximately 25% of patients, this analysis supports a general recommendation for surgical excision of FEA diagnosed by core biopsy.
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