pre·​can·​cer·​ous | \ (ˌ)prē-ˈkan(t)s-rəs How to pronounce precancerous (audio) , -ˈkan(t)-sə- \

Definition of precancerous

: tending to become cancerous a precancerous lesion

Examples of precancerous in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Under Section 3, Vice President George H.W. Bush was acting president for a few hours on July 13, 1985, while President Ronald Reagan underwent surgery to remove a precancerous lesion from his colon. W. James Antle Iii, Washington Examiner, "Here is what happens if Trump is incapacitated by COVID-19," 2 Oct. 2020 After a lip sunburn, precancerous inflammation called actinic cheilitis (AC) can develop, and that could lead to squamous cell cancer. Claire Gillespie,, "Sunburned Lips: The Best Ways to Soothe and Heal Them, According to Dermatologists," 2 July 2020 There is no Pap-smear equivalent for this devastating disease, no reliable way to spot precancerous or early-stage lesions. Claudia Wallis, Scientific American, "Why Oral Cancer Threatens Men," 1 Nov. 2018 They are recommended for people with no personal history of precancerous polyps, no colorectal cancer in the family and no other risk factors. Allison Hatfield, Dallas News, "Texas’ second-leading cause of death is largely preventable," 4 Mar. 2020 The phenomenon can act as quality control during an organism’s development, as a defence against precancerous cells and as a key part of maintaining organs such as the skin, intestine and heart. Kendall Powell, Scientific American, "Survival of the Fittest Cells," 22 Jan. 2020 The American Cancer Society says cervical cancer can be prevented if a Pap test finds precancerous cells. Danny Robbins, ajc, "Women’s deaths raise new concerns about prison medical care," 13 Dec. 2019 Patients and their doctors face crucial choices every day: Surgically excise precancerous breast cells or watch carefully for growth. Jocelyn Kaiser, Science | AAAS, "Medical groups push to save institute that helps doctors and patients choose the right treatment," 3 Dec. 2019 Later in the clip, however, Smith’s physician informs him that the gastroenterologist found a polyp — a precancerous legion — during the procedure, which was removed and sent to the lab. Georgia Slater,, "Will Smith Films First Colonoscopy and Shares Video of Results: 'Gotta Get Our Health Right'," 8 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'precancerous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of precancerous

1879, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for precancerous

International Scientific Vocabulary

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about precancerous

Time Traveler for precancerous

Time Traveler

The first known use of precancerous was in 1879

See more words from the same year

Statistics for precancerous

Cite this Entry

“Precancerous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for precancerous


How to pronounce precancerous (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of precancerous

medical : likely to become cancerous


pre·​can·​cer·​ous | \ -ˈkan(t)s-(ə-)rəs How to pronounce precancerous (audio) \

Medical Definition of precancerous

: tending to become cancerous : premalignant a precancerous lesion

Comments on precancerous

What made you want to look up precancerous? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!