p53 Mutation in histologically normal mucosa of the aero-digestive tract is not a marker of increased risk for second primary carcinoma in head and neck cancer patients

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2009 Apr;266(4):547-51. doi: 10.1007/s00405-008-0780-z. Epub 2008 Aug 8.


Head and neck cancer patients are at high risk for developing second primary tumors. This is known as field cancerization of the aero-digestive tract. In a previous study, we showed that patients with multiple primary tumors were more likely to have p53 mutations in histologically normal mucosae than patients presenting with an isolated tumor. Based on this observation, we postulated that p53 mutations in normal tissue samples of patients bearing a single primary tumor could have a clinical value as a biomarker for the risk of developing second primary tumors. Thirty-five patients presenting with a single primary tumor were followed-up for a median of 51 months (range 1 month to 10.9 years) after biopsies of histologically normal squamous cell mucosa had been analyzed for p53 mutations with a yeast functional assay at the time of the primary tumor. During this follow-up, recurrences and non-sterilization of the primary tumor, occurrence of lymph node metastases, and of second primary tumors were evaluated. Sixteen (45.7%) patients were found to have p53 mutations in their normal squamous cell mucosa, and 19 (54.3%) patients showed no mutation. No relationship was found between p53 mutations and the occurrence of evaluated events during follow-up. Notably, the rate of second primary tumors was not associated with p53 mutations in the normal squamous mucosa. The correlation between p53 mutations in histologically normal mucosae and the incidence of second primary tumors is generally low. The benefit of analyzing p53 mutations in samples of normal squamous cell mucosa in every patient with a primary tumor of the head and neck is doubtful.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Genes, p53 / genetics*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / mortality
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucous Membrane / pathology
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / genetics*
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary / pathology
  • Time Factors