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Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2006 Oct;18(10):1043-5.

Lichen planus in the oesophagus: are we missing something?

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Northen Oesophago-Gastric Unit, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.


Lichen planus of the oesophagus is rare with a predilection for middle-aged to elderly women. There is a potential risk of malignant transformation to squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma of the oesophagus still accounts for 30-40% of oesophageal cancer cases in the west and is almost exclusively the disease still encountered in the rest of the world. An increased awareness of oesophageal lichen planus is suggested in patients with cutaneous, oral or vulval disease. Endoscopic investigation of patients with lichen planus, possibly initially limited to those with oesophageal symptoms, and consideration of surveillance in patients with proven oesophageal lichen planus, will aid understanding of natural history of lesions and may help detect early stage tumours. Squamous cell carcinoma still accounts for 30-40% of oesophageal cancer cases in the west and is almost exclusively the disease still encountered elsewhere. Lichen planus of the oesophagus is potentially a premalignant condition for squamous cell carcinoma that could be surveilled in order to detect early-stage tumours with a consequent greater chance of cure. Oesophageal lichen planus is, however, rare, frequently asymptomatic and although the majority of cases occur in conjunction with lichen planus in other sites, the oesophageal features may be subtle and easily missed by endoscopic assessment. Furthermore, the histological changes are difficult to interpret and there may be significant underreporting. As a consequence, the true prevalence of these lesions is hard to determine. The difficulties in detection may mean that we are underestimating the frequency of oesophageal lichen planus. Endoscopic detection may be aided by the use of magnification indigo carmine chromoendoscopy and this warrants further evaluation. The risk of malignant transformation is currently unknown but may parallel that of oral lesions at approximately 1-3%. An increased awareness of the condition can only help to identify more cases and increase our understanding of this interesting condition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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