Immune activation and chronic inflammation as the cause of malignancy in oral lichen planus: is there any evidence ?

Oral Oncol. 2004 Feb;40(2):120-30. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2003.08.001.


The association of chronic inflammation with a variety of epithelial malignancies has been recognised for centuries. Well established examples include, among many others, oesophageal adenocarcinoma associated with chronic oesophagitis and bowel cancer associated with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. By now no data, other than clinical observation, have been available in understanding the pathogenesis of these inflammation-related tumours. However, recent molecular studies on the relationship between solid malignancies and the surrounding stroma have given new insights. There is now enough evidence to accept that the chronic inflammatory process per se is able to provide a cytokine-based microenvironment which is able to influence cell survival, growth, proliferation, differentiation and movement, hence contributing to cancer initiation, progression, invasion and metastasis. Here it is discussed whether also oral lichen planus (OLP), being a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease which has been clinically associated with development of oral squamous cell carcinoma, might be categorised among these disorders. With this aim, we critically reviewed and detailed the presence, in OLP subepithelial infiltrate, of inflammatory cells and cytokine networks that might act to promote squamous tumorigenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / immunology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / immunology
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Lichen Planus, Oral / immunology*
  • Lichen Planus, Oral / pathology
  • Mouth Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / pathology
  • Precancerous Conditions / immunology*
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology