December 15, 2023


In pathology, the term nonkeratinizing describes squamous cells that have not undergone keratinization, a process where cells produce and store large amounts of a protein called keratin. Keratin is a structural protein that makes cells tough and resistant to external physical forces. Nonkeratinizing squamous cells are normally found in mucosal tissues throughout the body where they provide a protective barrier for the underlying tissues, maintain a moist environment, and reduce friction while remaining soft and flexible.

What do nonkeratinizing cells look like under a microscope?

When stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and examined under the microscope, nonkeratinizing cells look dark blue because the nucleus (the part that holds the genetic material) occupies most of the cell and it binds strongly to the blue hematoxylin dye. In contrast, cells that have undergone keratinization look pink because the cytoplasm (body of the cell) is full of keratin which binds strongly to the pink eosin dye.

What does it mean if a tumour is described as nonkeratinizing?

A tumor is labeled as nonkeratinizing when it primarily consists of cells that do not produce keratin. The most frequent form of this cancer is known as nonkeratinizing squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cancer occurs in the cervix, lungs, and oropharynx (which encompasses the tonsils, base of the tongue, and soft palate), as well as in the nasopharynx, nasal cavity, and paranasal sinuses.

About this article

Doctors wrote this article to assist you in reading and comprehending your pathology report. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions about this article or your pathology report. To get a comprehensive introduction to your pathology report, read this article.

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Atlas of pathology
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