The majority of oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCCs) are preceded by visible changes in the oral mucosa, most often white patches. Although the histological finding of dysplasia in oral white patches signals increased risk of developing OSCC, this may also occur in non-dysplastic lesions. However, no reliable markers exist to predict the occurrence of OSCC in these patients. From a total of 263 patients diagnosed with oral white patches, biopsies from 45 patients were selected on the criteria that the patients had lesions histologically proven to be non-dysplastic. The lesions were analyzed with respect to their DNA content. The clinical outcome of the patients was known from the Cancer Registry of Norway, and these data were compared to the DNA content of their lesions. Among the 45 patients, five cases (11%) later developed an OSCC. Four of the cases that subsequently developed an OSCC were among the five aneuploid (abnormal) cases (P=0.001). One aneuploid lesion did not develop a carcinoma during a follow-up time of 120 months. The fifth case that subsequently developed an OSCC was diploid (normal), and developed into an OSCC after an observation time of 73 months (P=0.001). In conclusion, aberrant DNA content reliably predicts the occurrence of OSCC in patients that otherwise would be regarded as at very low risk. Normal DNA content indicates low risk.