In pathology, the term atypia is used to describe cells that look abnormal either in shape, colour, or size compared to normal, healthy cells in the same location. Pathologists may also describe these changes as cytologic atypia or atypical cells. These changes can affect the cytoplasm (body) of the cell or the nucleus (the part of the cell that holds the genetic material).
No. Atypia does not mean cancer. Atypia is used to describe any kind of cells, including both cancerous and non-cancerous cells, that look abnormal compared to normal, healthy cells.
No. Atypia does not mean that the cells are precancerous. While cytologic atypia can be used to describe precancerous cells, it is also used to describe cells that are non-precancerous.
Atypia can be caused by changes that start inside the cell or from factors in the environment outside of the cell. Changes inside the cell include genetic abnormalities that cause the cell to grow and develop abnormally. These kinds of changes can lead to cancer over time. Factors in the environment include inflammation, viral infections, radiation, medication-induced changes, or tissue injury as a result of trauma, stress, or decreased blood flow.