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Dysplasia is a combination of two Greek words; dys, which means difficult or disordered; and plassein, to form. In other words, dysplasia is the abnormal or disordered formation of certain structures. In medicine, dysplasia refers to cells that have acquired an abnormality in their form, size, or orientation with respect to each other.

Dysplasia may occur as the result of any number of stimuli. Sunburned skin, for example, is dysplastic, but will correct itself as the sunburned skin heals itself. Any source of irritation causing inflammation of an area will result in temporary dysplasia. If the source of irritation is removed the dysplasia will rectify itself, and cell structure and organization will return to normal.

Unfortunately, dysplasia can become permanent. This can occur when a source of irritation to a given area cannot be identified and corrected, or for completely unknown reasons. The continually worsening area of dysplasia can develop into an area of malignancy (cancer). A tendency toward dysplasia can be genetic and/or can result from exposure to irritants or toxins, such as cigarette smoke, viruses, or chemicals.

The Pap smear, a medical procedure commonly performed on women, is a test for cervical dysplasia. The degree of dysplasia present in cervical cells can indicate progression to a cancerous condition.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Direct Variation to Dysplasia