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Anal Quant Cytol Histol. 2000 Dec;22(6):486-92.

Micronucleus frequencies in exfoliated buccal cells in normal mucosa, precancerous lesions and squamous cell carcinoma.

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Mutagenesis Laboratory, National Cancer Institute-Genoa, Genoa, Italy.



To assess the value of micronuclei in the characterization of precancerous lesions of the oral cavity with reference to their likelihood of progressing to malignant lesions.


The frequency of micronuclei was determined in exfoliated cells from normal oral mucosa, a preneoplastic condition (leukoplakia) and precancerous lesions with and without dysplasia, squamous cell carcinomas and sites of previous carcinomas that had been removed.


Average micronucleus frequencies were increased in precancerous lesions as compared to normal mucosa and further increased in carcinomas, suggesting that micronuclei are a biomarker of neoplastic progression in this type of cancer. With all samples, micronucleus frequencies were systematically higher when cells were collected by vigorous than by light scraping, suggesting a decreasing gradient from basal to superficial layers of mucosa. The micronucleus frequency did not vary with the sex or age of patients, while it did vary with the anatomic site of the lesions.


Although the gradual increase in micronucleus counts from normal mucosa to precancerous lesions to carcinomas suggests a link of this biomarker with neoplastic progression, the large overlapping of data prevents its use as a predictor of progression of precancerous lesions to malignancy in individual patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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