Cyclins and cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) play key roles in cell cycle regulation, a process of which dysregulation can lead to uncontrolled cell growth and hence to cancer. We have already reported the alteration of CDK4 and cyclin D1 expression in oral cancer. In this study, we examined by immunohistochemistry the expression of CDK2, and cyclins A and E in 20 normal oral mucosa, 42 dysplastic epithelia, and 103 oral squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs). The expressions of CDK2, and cyclins A and E were not detected in the normal epithelium and significantly altered from epithelial dysplasia to SCC. While there were no significant correlations between the expression of cyclins A, E and the patients' survival, CDK2 expression was significantly correlated with lymph node involvement (P = 0.025), tumor differentiation (P = 0.032), mode of tumor invasion (P = 0.017), and shorter survival period (P = 0.0173). These results suggest that the elevated expression of CDK2 is a critical factor in oral cancer progression and can be used as a negative predictive marker of the patients' prognosis.