showing pathological changes that may be preliminary to malignancy.

1880–85; pre + cancerous Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
(esp of cells) displaying characteristics that may develop into cancer

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

precancerous pre·can·cer·ous (prē-kān'sər-əs)
Of, relating to, or being a condition or lesion that typically precedes or develops into a cancer.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Example sentences
If the damage is not too extensive, cancerous or precancerous cells are created
  from healthy cells.
Colposcopy may be used to keep track of precancerous cells and look for
  abnormalities that come back after treatment.
The purpose of this procedure is to diagnose and treat precancerous changes in
  the cervix.
Actinic keratosis is a precancerous skin lesion that rarely may become a
  squamous cell cancer.
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