Short telomeres in an oral precancerous lesion: Q-FISH analysis of leukoplakia

J Oral Pathol Med. 2012 May;41(5):372-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0714.2011.01120.x. Epub 2011 Nov 29.


Objectives: A precancerous condition is a lesion that, if left untreated, leads to cancer or can be induced to become malignant. In the oral region, leukoplakia is a lesion that has been regarded as precancerous. In cases of oral carcinoma, we have frequently noticed that a type of leukoplakia histologically demonstrating hyper-orthokeratosis and mild atypia (ortho-keratotic dysplasia; OKD) is often associated with carcinoma, either synchronously or metachronously. Therefore, we consider OKD-type leukoplakia to be a true precancerous lesion.

Materials and methods: In an attempt to clarify the relationship between OKD as a precancerous condition in the oral mucosa and telomere length, we estimated telomere lengths in this type of leukoplakia using quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization, and also quantified the frequency of anaphase-telophase bridges (ATBs) in comparison with squamous cell carcinoma in situ (CIS) and the background tissues of CIS and OKD.

Results: Ortho-keratotic dysplasia was frequently associated with squamous cell carcinoma (45.0%) and showed significantly shorter telomeres than normal control epithelium, CIS, or the background of CIS or OKD. The frequency of ATBs was much higher in OKD than in control epithelium or CIS.

Conclusion: Ortho-keratotic dysplasia appears to be frequently associated with carcinoma, chromosomal instability, and excessively shortened telomeres, not only in the lesion itself but also in the surrounding background. Therefore, when this type of leukoplakia is recognized in the oral region, strict follow-up for oral squamous cell carcinoma is necessary, focusing not only on the areas of leukoplakia, but also the surrounding background.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Chromosomal Instability*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Keratosis
  • Leukoplakia, Oral / genetics
  • Leukoplakia, Oral / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Neoplasms / genetics
  • Mouth Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Precancerous Conditions / genetics
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology
  • Telomere Shortening*