Oral leukoplakia

Crit Rev Oral Biol Med. 1995;6(2):147-60. doi: 10.1177/10454411950060020401.


Leukoplakia has evolved as a clinico-pathologic concept over many years, with the current clinical designation being accepted worldwide. Reflective of the biology of leukoplakia is the concept of cellular atypia and epithelial dysplasia. Adding to a better understanding of leukoplakia in general has been the definition of relevant clinical subsets which, in some cases, includes etiology (snuff), while in other cases a verrucous clinical appearance will suggest a more aggressive anticipated behavior pattern. Tobacco usage, in many of its forms, remains the prime etiologic factor; however, other considerations also apply. More recently, the potential etiologic role of Candida albicans has been stressed, as well as its possible role in carcinogenesis. So-called oral hairy leukoplakia has been defined in relation to a possible Epstein-Barr viral infection, usually in the immunosuppressed patient. Other viruses, human papilloma virus in particular, have been implicated in leukoplakia, while genetic alterations involving tumor suppressor elements (p53) have also been investigated. Finally, the management of this common condition remains a variable and includes local, topical, and systemic therapies such as anti-oxidants, carotenoids, and retinoids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Candidiasis, Oral
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor / genetics
  • Herpesviridae Infections
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Leukoplakia, Hairy / virology
  • Leukoplakia, Oral* / drug therapy
  • Leukoplakia, Oral* / etiology
  • Leukoplakia, Oral* / genetics
  • Leukoplakia, Oral* / microbiology
  • Leukoplakia, Oral* / virology
  • Mouth Neoplasms / microbiology
  • Nicotiana
  • Papillomaviridae
  • Papillomavirus Infections
  • Plants, Toxic
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / adverse effects
  • Tumor Virus Infections