Risk factors for oral epithelial dysplasias to become malignant: clinical implications

Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2022 Apr;51(4):473-480. doi: 10.1016/j.ijom.2021.08.012. Epub 2021 Sep 7.


There is a lack of effective clinical management of oral epithelial dysplasias to reduce their risk of malignant transformation and considerable gaps in knowledge regarding the most effective means of treating such lesions. A retrospective cohort of biopsy-confirmed oral epithelial dysplasias consecutively diagnosed in the period 1995-2014 and followed-up until 2017 was identified from pathology department files. Demographic, clinical and follow-up information was collected. Multivariate Cox proportional-hazards models were performed to evaluate sociodemographic, clinical and pathological factors associated with progression to oral squamous cell carcinoma. The study included 144 oral epithelial dysplasias, of which 42% progressed to oral cancer at the end of follow-up (21 years). Clinical aspect of the lesion was described for 77 (53.5%) of the patients. Treatment, age, grade of the lesion and diagnostic period were independent prognostic factors for progression. When considering only patients with described clinical aspect, only treatment and grade of the lesion were independently associated with cancer. The results from this non-selected retrospective cohort of oral epithelial dysplasias underscore the existing limitations of the current standard-of-care of the patients and provide novel insights on the management of these lesions with and without described clinical aspect. Well-designed, robust prospective studies, a homogenized staging system and multidisciplinary treatment guidelines are warranted.

Keywords: mouth mucosa; oral leukoplakia; oral pathology; oral squamous cell carcinoma.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / therapy
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Leukoplakia, Oral
  • Mouth Mucosa / pathology
  • Mouth Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Mouth Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Precancerous Conditions* / pathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors