The Pathology Dictionary Team
February 21, 2023
In pathology, nuclear atypia is used to describe nuclei that are abnormal in size, shape, or colour when examined under the microscope. The nucleus (the term nuclei is used to describe more than one) is the part of the cell that holds the genetic material or DNA. A group of cells may be described as showing nuclear atypia if their nuclei are larger, hyperchromatic (darker), have an irregular shape, or contain large collections of genetic material called nucleoli.
Nuclear 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.
No. Nuclear atypia does not mean cancer. Although the term nuclear atypia is often used to describe cancerous and precancerous cells, nuclear atypia can also be used to describe abnormal but non-cancerous cells.