Oral leukoplakia, the ongoing discussion on definition and terminology

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© Medicina Oral S. L. In the past decades several definitions of oral leukoplakia have been proposed, the last one, being authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO), dating from 2005. In the present treatise an adjustment of that definition and the 1978 WHO definition is suggested, being: “A predominantly white patch or plaque that cannot be characterized clinically or pathologically as any other disorder; oral leukoplakia carries an increased risk of cancer development either in or close to the area of the leukoplakia or elsewhere in the oral cavity or the head-and-neck region”. Furthermore, the use of strict diagnostic criteria is recommended for predominantly white lesions for which a causative factor has been identified, e.g. smokers’ lesion, frictional lesion and dental restoration associated lesion. A final diagnosis of such leukoplakic lesions can only be made in retrospect after successful elimination of the causative factor within a somewhat arbitrarily chosen period of 4-8 weeks. It seems questionable to exclude “frictional keratosis” and “alveolar ridge keratosis” from the category of leukoplakia as has been suggested in the literature. Finally, brief attention has been paid to some histopathological issues that may cause confusion in establishing a final diagnosis of leukoplakia.




van der Waal, I. (2015). Oral leukoplakia, the ongoing discussion on definition and terminology. Medicina Oral, Patologia Oral y Cirugia Bucal, 20(6), e685–e692. https://doi.org/10.4317/medoral.21007

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