Atypical cells, the presence of which is sometimes called "dysplasia," have a number of causes that range from infection and/or inflammation to normal aging. Atypical cells usually revert back into normal cells once the cause is identified and treated.
In certain cases, atypical cells are found to be precancerous, though many are benign and do not spread to other parts of the body. During microscopic evaluation, cells may appear abnormal even when they are benign.
Atypical cells are different from normal cells in that many appear to be flat, with borders that are well-defined. Although treatment is commonly required for these atypical cells to revert back to normal, the process may sometimes take place spontaneously, despite the absence of treatment.
Certain parts of the body are more prone to the appearance of atypical cells. The breast, cervix and thyroid are some of the most common locations for the discovery of these cells.
Yeast infections are sometimes the root cause of atypical cells in the cervix. In cases in which the condition is treated early, normal cells may not even begin to appear atypical. Human Papilloma Virus is also capable of bringing about the appearance of atypical cells. In the case of HPV, cervical cells may transition from normal to abnormal during a process that can take more than 15 years.
With hyperplasia, a condition in which large numbers of atypical cells form a cluster, cancer is a possible outcome, and therefore monitoring of the disorder is frequently recommended.