What Are Precancerous Cells?


Quick Answer

Precancerous cells, or premalignant cells, refer to abnormal cells that can transform into cancerous cells; however, they are not invasive, meaning they don’t spread to other body parts, explains About.com. In most cases, precancerous cells remain abnormal but do not develop into cancer.

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Different environmental factors can damage healthy cells and trigger DNA changes in the cell, causing the cells to become precancerous, according to About.com. Some people who are infected with the human papilloma virus experience inflammation and develop precancerous cells in the cervix. The virus can also lead to head and neck cancers. Other underlying causes of precancerous changes include chronic inflammation and chronic irritation.

Cancer researchers say that precancerous cells are resilient and capable of becoming normal again, depending on various environmental factors, such as carcinogens and hormones, notes About.com. Treatment of precancerous cells depends on their location. Doctors typically perform a procedure of freezing the cells, known as cryotherapy, to remove them. Surgery is also an option to remove the area where the abnormal cells are found.

Close monitoring of a patient with precancerous cells is essential as the abnormality may resolve without treatment or may recur after treatment, states About.com. A person’s diet, lifestyle and activity level are factors that affect the progression of abnormal cells. Doctors advise eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly to help prevent abnormal cells from turning into cancer.

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