Dysplasia: Is it cancer?

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Dysplasia: Is it cancer?

Question

What exactly is dysplasia? Is it cancer?

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Answer

Dysplasia isn't cancer. But it may indicate a precancerous condition.

The term "dysplasia" is used to describe certain microscopic changes in the appearance of cells. Although the cells don't look normal, they don't yet meet the criteria for cancer. All cancer cells start as normal cells. Through a series of genetic changes within these cells, they start to look less normal and more abnormal.

Not all dysplasia will develop into cancer. Sometimes the dysplasia corrects itself. Causes of dysplasia include:

  • Infection
  • Chronic irritation
  • Sunburn
  • Exposure to certain chemicals

If you have dysplasia, your doctor will want to monitor it. Depending on the location of the dysplasia and your signs and symptoms, your doctor may also recommend further testing. Discuss with your doctor the meaning of dysplasia in your specific situation.

Last Updated: 07/01/2005
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