We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Atypical Cells?

By Mary Beth Swayne
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Atypical cells are cells that look different and function differently than they should. They are most often found in the cervix, breast, and thyroid, but may appear anywhere in the body, and are commonly caused by inflammation or infections. Most have a flat, sheet-like appearance and well-defined borders that separate them from normal cells. Though they are sometimes precancerous, many are benign, meaning that they will not spread or undergo additional changes. Once the underlying cause is treated, the cells usually go back to being normal.

Common Causes

An inflammation or infection can sometimes create non-cancerous atypical cells. For instance, yeast infections often cause atypical cervical cells in women. In many cases, the underlying cause is diagnosed and treated before a healthcare provider even sees any abnormal cells.

Atypical cells are also linked to certain diseases, including Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), so healthcare professionals often recommend that people with HPV have a colposcopy. This is a procedure that provides a magnified view of the cervix and allows for unusual tissue to be detected and biopsied for testing. Additionally, some cancers, including breast cancer and cervical cancer may initially appear as atypical cells if they are detected early enough.

Another medical condition that often causes this symptom is hyperplasia. This is a disorder in which large numbers of abnormal cells accumulate in an area. Since it's a risk factor for cancer, so people with hyperplasia have frequent screenings to be safe. Even if they do not develop into an invasive cancer, the cells can still mutate and cause a growth.


It can be difficult to tell if atypical cells are precancerous or not at first glance, so medical professionals often recommend keeping an eye on the affected area over time to see if the tissue changes. Precancerous cells often grow and divide quickly, and mutate over the course of months, while benign ones usually don't change much. Healthcare providers also use other methods, such as testing for the presence of certain genes or proteins to check for precancerous tissue.

Microscopes must be used to detect irregular cells in human tissue samples, because they cannot be distinguished by the naked eye. Tissue samples are generally collected with non-invasive procedures, like Pap smears, throat swabs, and skin scrapings. If there are cells of an unusual size, shape, or color in the sample, then a biopsy is usually done to collect more tissue for further testing.


Not all atypical cells require medical attention; this is often the case in cases where cells look unusual, but are not precancerous. In mild cases, the body may remove the cells on its own over a period of months. More heavily concentrated areas of irregular tissue generally requires treatment, which varies depending on the cause of the abnormality, its severity, and its location.

Cells near the surface of the body may be removed through biopsies, laser surgery, or cryosurgery, in which the affected area is frozen. Surgery is typically required in cases that occur in deeper tissue. Precancerous or cancerous growths may be treated with methods such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By artlover — On Jan 30, 2011

@abundancer -- I know of a doctor who treats atypical squamous cells of the vaginal area with a topical cream made from wild yam, along with a tablet also made from wild yam. It would be worth looking into if you and your doctor felt it was a safe treatment.

By abundancer — On Jan 28, 2011

I think that the scariest atypical cells are atypical squamous cells, the ones that show up on Pap smears. What makes them so scary is that they can be caused by so many things, including an excess of some nutrients, like B3, or a deficiency in others like folic acid.

Does anyone know how those things are treated?

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.