[Potentially malignant disorders of the oral mucosa: terminology and classification]

Rev Stomatol Chir Maxillofac. 2010 Sep;111(4):208-12. doi: 10.1016/j.stomax.2010.07.007. Epub 2010 Aug 23.
[Article in French]


The last WHO expert workgroup recommended abandoning the distinction between potentially malignant lesions and conditions. The term to use is "potentially malignant disorders". Leukoplakia is the most common of these disorders, while erythroplakia is rather rare. The diagnosis is still made by excluding other documented white or red lesions. Despite progress in molecular biology, no marker allows predicting malignant transformation. These lesions are treated surgically with or without dysplasia. It is unknown if this surgery can really prevent transformation into squamous cell carcinoma. The potential malignancy of oral lichen planus is still debated. The risk of malignant transformation is lower than that of leukoplakia. No treatment may prevent this. Other potentially malignant conditions such as oral submucous fibrosis, actinic cheilitis, lupus, and immunodeficiency are rare.

Publication types

  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Biopsy
  • Carcinoma in Situ / classification
  • Carcinoma in Situ / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / classification
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / classification
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Cheilitis / classification
  • Cheilitis / pathology
  • Erythroplasia / classification
  • Erythroplasia / pathology
  • Humans
  • Keratosis, Actinic / classification
  • Keratosis, Actinic / pathology
  • Leukoplakia, Oral / classification
  • Leukoplakia, Oral / pathology
  • Lichen Planus, Oral / classification
  • Lichen Planus, Oral / pathology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Discoid / classification
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Discoid / pathology
  • Mouth Diseases / classification
  • Mouth Diseases / pathology
  • Mouth Neoplasms / classification*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Oral Submucous Fibrosis / classification
  • Oral Submucous Fibrosis / pathology
  • Precancerous Conditions / classification*
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology
  • Terminology as Topic


  • Biomarkers, Tumor