Difference Between Benign and Malignant

By: | Updated: Jul-10, 2022
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In medical terminology, benign is used to describe something that is not dangerous or threatening, while malignant means something that is dangerous or threatening. They both refer to the same type of cancer but they are used differently.

As a result of this confusion, many people do not know the difference between benign and malignant cells. This article will explain how these two terms are different from each other.

Summary Table

Benign Malignant
Harmless cell growth Harmful cell growth
Limited lifespan Unlimited lifespan
Hold together tissue Invade surrounding tissue


Benign is a condition that is not life-threatening but does not cause death or serious illness. Benign tumors are usually benign, i.e., non-cancerous and do not spread to other parts of the body; however, they can be cancerous (malignant). In medicine and biology, benign is considered a condition that is not harmful, or not likely to cause serious illness. It can be cured easily by simple treatment, without causing any permanent damage to health.

Malignant means having an aggressive nature or potentially becoming dangerous or harmful. It can also be used to refer to cancer cells, which are capable of invading other parts of the body and spreading through various organs and tissues. For instance, breast cancer is considered a malignant disease. They can be slow growing or fast growing; some may be benign.

Benign vs Malignant

Benign and malignant are two terms used to describe the same benign or cancerous cells. The terms benign and malignant originated in medical science through the study of medicine.

Being that the word “malignant” is derived from the Latin word “malum”, which means bad and/or disease, this is the only way that one can differentiate between benign and malignant cells.

Benign refers to a condition in which the cell changes are not considered harmful or cancerous. Benign cells may grow uncontrollably because of these changes as well. For example, benign cells can grow in the case of cancerous cells without causing any harm to the body.

On the other hand, malignant refers to a condition wherein the abnormal cell growth has resulted in a disease that may spread to other parts of the body or may cause death if not treated. This is caused by the uncontrolled cell division of those cells that are considered malignant.

Benign cells have a life span that is limited or short for the cell to grow and multiply uncontrollably. This is why benign cells are not considered to be dangerous. Once the benign cells in the body reach a certain number or size, they will disappear.

Malignant cells on the other hand are not limited to a life span. They have the ability to grow and multiply uncontrollably, causing cancerous growths to spread to other parts of the body.

The primary function of a benign tumor is to hold together the surrounding tissue, while a malignant tumor may invade the surrounding tissue due to its abnormal growth and invasive nature.

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