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Atypia (from Greek, a + typos, without type; a condition of being irregular or nonstandard)[1] is a histopathologic term for a structural abnormality in a cell, i.e. it is used to describe atypical cells.

Atypia can be caused by an infection or irritation if diagnosed in a Pap smear, for example. In the uterus it is more likely to be precancerous.

The related concept of dysplasia refers to an abnormality of development,[2] and includes abnormalities on larger, histopathologic scales.

Examples for Barretts esophagus[edit]

In Barrett's esophagus, features that are classified as atypia but not as dysplasia are mainly:[3]

  • Nuclear stratification, wherein cell nuclei, which are normally located nearly at the same level between adjacent cells, are instead located at different levels.
  • Crowding
  • Hyperchromatism
  • Prominent nucleoli


It may or may not be a precancerous indication associated with later malignancy, but the level of appropriate concern is highly dependent on the context with which it is diagnosed.

For example, already differentiated, specialised cells such as epithelia displaying "cellular atypia" are far less likely to become problematic [cancerous/ malignant] than are myeloid progenitor cells of the immune system. The 'further back' in an already specialised, differentiated cell's lineage, the more problematic cellular atypia is likely to be. This is due to the conferring of such atypia to progeny-cells further down the lineage of that cell type.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mosby's Medical Dictionary (8th edition). Elsevier.
  2. ^ "dysplasia" at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  3. ^ "Definition and Characteristics of Dysplasia in Barrett's Esophagus". University of Washington. Retrieved 2019-09-27.