GentleCure Blog

Metaplasia vs. Dysplasia

Doctor and patient talking

Researching skin cancer often brings up an entire new vocabulary of scientific terms that can be challenging to understand. When reading about how skin cells become cancerous, you may be asking yourself, “what is metaplasia and dysplasia?” We’re breaking down the differences between metaplasia vs. dysplasia in this guide. 

What is Metaplasia? 

Metaplasia refers to the process of cells transforming from one differentiated cell type to another, effectively changing the cell from its original state into a new one. When cells are faced with conditions or stressors that are outside their norm, they are forced to adapt, taking on a new form in hopes of being better suited for the challenge. If the stressor is eliminated, the cells may be able to return to their normal patterns. 

In relation to skin cancer, an example of a stressor would be overexposure to UV rays. Prolonged sunlight exposure causes skin cells to speed up their reproduction rate, which can lead to unwanted lesions or sores. Proper sun skin care such as applying sunscreen or wearing protective clothing can reduce the harmful effects of this stressor. 

Metaplasia is not considered cancerous and is categorized as a premalignant condition. If left unnoticed or untreated, though, it can be a precursor to cancer

What is Dysplasia? 

While dysplasia also involves cell transformation, comparing metaplasia vs. dysplasia shows there are some key differences. Metaplasia is brought on by external environmental stressors, whereas dysplasia involves abnormal cell development caused by internal issues. Dysplasia occurs during a breakdown of existing cell tissue that loses its uniformity and structure. 

Picture dysplasia in skin cells like building blocks. They all need to work together in order to keep the structure intact, but if a few of the blocks degrade or fall away, the structure begins to crumble and transform into a pile. 

Dysplasia has a higher chance of leading to cancer than metaplasia. 

The Differences Between Metaplasia and Dysplasia 

When comparing metaplasia vs. dysplasia, here are the major takeaways: 

  • Metaplasia: Transforms a cell from one form to another; caused by external stimulus; can be reversible; less likely to lead to cancer
  • Dysplasia: Transforms a cell into an abnormal version of itself; caused by internal stimulus; is not reversible; more likely to lead to cancer 

Regardless if you’ve experienced metaplasia or dysplasia, it’s important to stay on top of major changes in your skin’s appearance. Abnormal skin cells can lead to skin cancer, and early detection is the best line of defense. 

Learn More About Your Common Skin Cancer Treatment Options

Now that you know what is metaplasia and dysplasia, continue your learning by discovering Image-Guided SRT, the surgery-free treatment method for common skin cancer. Learn how it works. Call 855-936-4411 to connect with a Skin Cancer Information Specialist today.

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For more information on skin cancer treatment options, speak with a Skin Cancer Information Specialist today.

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