Oral leukoplakia (OL) is the most common potentially malignant lesion of the oral cavity. Immunohistochemical analysis of p53 and Ki67 proteins is a simple and inexpensive method widely used in non-dysplastic OLs to reveal lesions predicted to develop oral cancer. The present longitudinal study evaluated the predictive role of p53 and Ki67 proteins alone or in combination in a group of OLs without dysplasia followed for many years. Seventy-seven OL patients referred to our Department between January 2006 and October 2013 underwent histochemical analysis of p53 and Ki67 expression. OLs were considered at high risk in the presence of either high p53 expression (>20%), or low/normal p53 expression associated with high Ki67 expression (Ki67/p53 ratio >3). Seven OLs evolved to OSCC during the follow-up period. Three cases had p53 overexpression, while four had a high Ki67/p53 ratio. Statistical significance was reached when samples with p53 overexpression were combined with samples with high Ki67/p53 ratio (Chi square 5.3; p<0.02). The combined immunohistochemical expression of p53 and Ki67 proteins could be a useful and simple molecular marker for early detection of non-dysplastic OLs at risk of developing oral cancer.
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