Teratomas are germ cell tumors that arise from ectopic pluripotent stem cells that fail to migrate from yolk sac endoderm to the urogenital ridge during embryogenesis. By definition, they contain elements from all three embryological layers: endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm although frequently, elements from only two layers are evident.


Teratomas range from benign, mature, well-differentiated cystic lesions to immature, poorly differentiated lesions with solid components and malignant transformation.  As a result they can contain a large variety of tissue types including.  On occasion, mature teratomas contain elements that undergo malignant transformation (most commonly squamous components).

  • fat
  • cystic spaces due to mucous production or other exocrine products
  • soft-tissue from any part of the body
  • calcification including teeth

They are found in a variety of locations, including:

History and etymology

The word teratoma is derived from the word “teratos” in Greek which means monster.

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