Keratosis of unknown significance and leukoplakia: a preliminary study

Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol. 2014 Dec;118(6):713-24. doi: 10.1016/j.oooo.2014.09.016. Epub 2014 Sep 22.


Objective: The objectives were to (1) determine the frequency of specific diagnoses in a series of white lesions, and (2) describe the nature of keratotic lesions that are neither reactive nor dysplastic.

Study design: White lesions were analyzed and diagnosed as reactive keratoses, dysplastic/malignant, or keratoses of unknown significance (KUS).

Results: Of the 1251 specimens that were evaluated, 703 met criteria for inclusion, and approximately 75% were reactive, 10% dysplastic/malignant, and 14% KUS. Excluding reactive keratoses, 43% were dysplastic/malignant and 57% were KUS.

Conclusions: Reactive keratoses were the most common white lesions followed by lichen planus. Dysplastic/malignant lesions constituted almost 50% of all true leukoplakias. KUS constituted the remaining cases and do not show typical reactive histopathology as well as clear dysplasia. They may represent evolving or devolving reactive keratoses but may also represent the very earliest dysplasia phenotype. Clinical findings may be helpful in differentiating the two.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Keratosis / epidemiology*
  • Keratosis / pathology
  • Leukoplakia, Oral / epidemiology*
  • Leukoplakia, Oral / pathology
  • Male
  • Mouth Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / pathology
  • Precancerous Conditions / epidemiology*
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors