Bronchial cell changes occur in response to noxious stimuli such as severe inflammations, radiotherapy, chemotherapy. Ciliated columnar cells may have enlarged nuclei with coarse chromatin and large nucleoli. Multinucleation is common. Large papillary groups of bronchial cells (Creola bodies) may be seen in chronic airway diseases such as asthma. Goblet cells may also proliferate and large sheets or papillary clusters of goblet cells may exfoliate; goblet cell hyperplasia can mimic a bronchioloalveolar carcinoma.
Bronchial cell hyperplasia must not be misdiagnosed as adenocarcinoma. Benign bronchial cells are ciliated and a spectrum of epithelial changes ranging from benign to markedly atypical is usually observed, rather than two distinct cell populations.