Metaplasia is an abnormal change in a cell that is not commonly found in its surrounding tissue. This can be triggered by an environmental stimulus that forces the cell to evolve in an unnatural way. But is metaplasia cancer? The official metaplasia definition says no, but as seen in many metaplasia examples, it can develop into cancer after further changes.
Metaplasia Definition and Examples
Metaplasia in Greek means “change of form,” and in terms of the human body, refers to when cells transform from their original state into a mutated version. This happens when outside factors impose foreign or excessive stressors upon the body, prompting a dramatic change in an effort to adapt. What is squamous metaplasia? Similarly, this metaplasia definition involves a benign, non-cancerous change to a cell, usually located in the surface lining of an organ.
Examples of stressors that could lead to metaplasia include:
- Cigarette smoke leading to cell damage in the airways
- Bladder stones leading to cell damage in the urinary bladder
- UV rays leading to cell damage in the skin
Metaplasia can develop slowly over time or at a rapid pace, depending on the severity of the conditions and affected area of the body. In the case of skin cancer, metaplasia is more likely to occur slowly, evolving as the patient ages and continues to see sun exposure.
Is Metaplasia Cancer?
Metaplasia is not cancer, though it can be a precursor to cancer. Metaplasia is defined as a premalignant condition, meaning that there is an increased risk of the cells developing into a cancerous state. This is most likely to occur for warning signs that go undetected or ignored over time.
On the skin, examples of premalignant skin lesions include:
- Actinic keratoses: a rough, scaly patch that can resemble warts
- Bowen’s disease: a red, scaly patch of skin that can itch, bleed, or scab
- Keratoacanthoma: a raised skin lesion with a depressed center that can present on the hands, face, or ears
The best defense against metaplasia or any precancerous condition is to have it evaluated by a physician as soon as symptoms are detected. Early detection helps give patients better chances to find the right treatments in time.
How Does Squamous Metaplasia Become Cancer?
Nonkeratinizing squamous metaplasia (the cells don’t amass large amounts of protein), isn’t a cancerous or precancerous condition. However, metaplastic cells are considered precursor cells for many cancers. If left untreated, keratinizing squamous metaplasia (the cells make too much keratin as they travel from one epithelial layer to the another), can progress into dysplasia. Dysplasia is an increase in abnormal cells in tissues or organs. Dysplasia can eventually progress into neoplasia, which is the formation of an area that may be cancerous or benign.
Squamous cells that become cancerous develop into squamous cell cancer. Sqaumous cell skin cancer is just one type of squamous cell cancer. These cells are located in mucus membranes throughout your body and can undergo metaplasia.
Find Treatment for Common Skin Cancers
GentleCure™ is committed to helping skin cancer patients find the information they need like what is the difference between metaplasia and dysplasia. If you’ve recently been diagnosed and are looking for surgery-free treatment methods, call our skin cancer information specialists at 855-936-4411 to learn more about Image-Guided SRT.
Find Treatment for Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
GentleCure is committed to helping non-melanoma skin cancer patients find the information they need like what is the difference between metaplasia and dysplasia. If you’ve recently been diagnosed and are looking for surgery-free treatment methods, call our Skin Cancer Information Specialists at 855-936-4411 to learn more about Image-Guided SRT.