by Jason Wasserman MD PhD FRCPC
April 25, 2022
Metaplasia is the change from one differentiated (mature) type of cell into another differentiated (mature) type of cell. Metaplasia can occur almost anywhere in the body although it is most commonly seen in the esophagus, stomach, bladder, breast, ovary, and endometrium. Another word for metaplasia is metaplastic.
There are many different types of metaplasia and pathologists and the term used in a pathology report depends on the final cell type. For example, the term squamous metaplasia is used to describe any group of differentiated cells that change into squamous cells. Other common types of metaplasia include intestinal metaplasia, oncocytic metaplasia, tubal metaplasia, and apocrine metaplasia.
Metaplasia on its own is a non-cancerous change. However, some types of metaplasia can increase the risk of developing cancer over time. For example, intestinal metaplasia in the esophagus is associated with an increased risk of developing a type of esophagus cancer called adenocarcinoma. Metaplasia can also be seen inside a cancerous tumour.