Oral leukoplakia in a South African sample: a clinicopathological study

Authors

  • R Chandran,

    1. Department of Oral Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
    2. Department of Periodontology and Oral Medicine, University of Limpopo, Pretoria, South Africa
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  • S Meer,

    Corresponding author
    • Department of Oral Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
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  • L Feller

    1. Department of Periodontology and Oral Medicine, University of Limpopo, Pretoria, South Africa
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Correspondence: Shabnum Meer, Associate Professor/Acting Head, Department of Oral Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, WITS 2050, South Africa. Tel: +27 + 11 717 2523, Fax: +27 + 11 717 2146, E-mail: shabnum.meer@nhls.ac.za; shabnum.meer@wits.ac.za

Abstract

Objective

This study analysed differences in clinicopathological features of oral leukoplakia in different racial groups in the greater Johannesburg area of South Africa, with emphasis on the black population.

Material and Methods

The retrospective review included cases diagnosed clinically as oral leukoplakia and histologically as hyperkeratosis without dysplasia, hyperkeratosis with mild, moderate or severe dysplasia, and carcinoma in situ from 1990 to 2010. Age, gender, ethnicity, clinical appearance, site of lesion and tobacco smoking habit were recorded.

Results

Fourteen per cent of oral leukoplakia occurred in black South Africans compared with 80% in white South Africans. In contrast to whites, blacks were diagnosed with oral leukoplakia at a younger age; there were more men affected than women; and the proportion of idiopathic leukoplakia was greater. There were significantly more blacks (23%) than whites (13%) with non-homogenous leukoplakia and significantly more whites (51%) than blacks (23%) with dysplastic oral leukoplakia.

Conclusion

This study suggests that oral leukoplakia, especially non-homogenous and idiopathic forms affects South African blacks less frequently than white South Africans; and in the former, it occurs more in men and at a younger age. These findings may provide some guidance in establishing screening policies for oral cancer, particularly suited for blacks.

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