A precancerous condition or premalignant condition, sometimes called a potentially precancerous condition or potentially premalignant condition, is a state of disordered morphology of cells that is associated with an increased risk of cancer. If left untreated, these conditions may lead to cancer.
A premalignant or precancerous tumor is one that is not yet malignant, but is about to become so.
Examples of premalignant growths include:
- Actinic keratosis – also known as senile keratosis or solar keratosis is a premalignant growth consisting of crusty, scaly and thick patches of skin. Fair-skinned people are more susceptible to these types of growths, especially those who are exposed to sunlight (it is linked to solar damage).Actinic keratoses are seen as potentially premalignant because a number of them progress to squamous cell carcinoma. Doctors usually recommend treating them because of this. There is a 20% risk that untreated lesions eventually become cancerous. Continuous sun exposure increases the risk of malignancy.
- Dysplasia of the cervix – the normal cells lining the cervix of the uterus change. The growth can be premalignant, a prelude to cervical cancer. Cervical dysplasia is diagnosed with a PAP smear. According to the National Institutes of Health, USA, about 5% of PAP smears detect the presence of cervical dysplasia. They are more common in women aged 25 to 35. They may be removed with Cryotherapy (freezing), or conization (the cone of tissue from the cervix is removed).
- Metaplasia of the lung – the growths occur in the bronchi, tubes that carry air from the windpipe into the lung. The bronchi are lined with glandular cells, which can change and become squamous cells. Metaplasia of the lung is most commonly caused by smoking.
- Leukoplakia – thick, white patches form on the gums, bottom of the mouth, insides of the cheeks, and less commonly on the tongue. They cannot be scraped off easily. Experts believe tobacco smoking and/or chewing is the main cause. Although Leukoplakia is rarely dangerous, a small percentage are premalignant and can eventually become cancerous. Many mouth cancers occur next to areas of leukoplakia.If smokers quit, the condition usually clears up. Quitting both alcohol and tobacco together has better results. The patches can be removed using laser, a scalpel or a cold probe that freezes the cancer cells (cryoprobe).
read more about Tumor: Causes, Biopsy procedures & Treatments