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Keywords:

  • oral lichen planus;
  • malignant transformation;
  • oral cancer

Studies of the malignant potential of oral lichen planus (OLP) have been hampered by inconsistencies in the diagnostic criteria used for OLP, the criteria adopted to identify a true case of malignant transformation in OLP, the risk factors for malignant transformation and the optimum management of patients to ensure the early diagnosis of transformation. Consensus remains elusive, and leading workers in this field have recently published conflicting reports on the malignant potential of OLP and on the important question of the advisability of excluding patients with epithelial dysplasia or a tobacco habit from studies on this issue. The present review outlines these debates and proposes a possible a molecular basis for the malignant transformation in this disease.