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Head Neck Pathol. 2009 Mar;3(1):63-8. doi: 10.1007/s12105-009-0103-8. Epub 2009 Feb 22.

Dysplasia of the upper aerodigestive tract squamous epithelium.

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  • 1Oral Pathology Diagnostic Services, 4945 Mercury Street, San Diego, CA 92111, USA.


Dysplasia of the oral, laryngeal and oropharyngeal stratified squamous epithelia is a microscopically defined change that may occur in clinically identifiable lesions including erythroplakia, leukoplakia and erythroleukoplakia, lesions that convey a heightened risk for carcinomatous progression. Dysplastic lesions have been classified microscopically according to degree of cytologic atypia and changes in architectural patterns, usually on a three part or four part gradation scale. Vocal cord epithelial lesions are graded according to either the Ljubljana or the World Health Organization (WHO) system whereas oral dysplasias are generally classified according to WHO criteria. Cytologically atypical cells are considered to represent precancerous changes predicting an increase risk for carcinomatous transformation. Inter- and intra-rater reliability studies among pathologists have disclosed low correlation coefficients for four part grading systems, whereas improved agreement is achieved (kappa correlation values) using the Ljubljana systems. Evidence forwarded by some studies supports the prognostic value of progressively severe dysplastic changes for carcinomatous transformation; however, some studies indicate that the presence of a clinically defined lesion without microscopic evidence of dysplasia also connotes increased risk for carcinomatous transformation. Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at 3p and 9p microsatellite domains, DNA ploidy analysis and nuclear image analyses may have predictive value as molecular and histomorphological biomarkers.


Biomarkers; DNA ploidy; Dysplasia; Head and neck; Larynx; Loss of heterozygosity; Oral mucosa; Oropharynx; Precancerous lesions; Squamous cell carcinoma

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