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Spec Care Dentist. 2007 May-Jun;27(3):87-94.

Self-awareness of premalignant oral lesions among veterans attending six U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Centers.

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Department of Dental Ecology (School of Dentistry) and Microbiology and Immunology (School of Medicine), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC, USA.


Early identification is key to reducing the morbidity and mortality of oropharyngeal cancer. This study identified factors associated with self-awareness among patients newly diagnosed with a premalignant oral lesion. Data describing sociodemographics, medical/dental histories, tobacco/alcohol use and oral health were obtained by questionnaire and clinical examination of 73 veterans at six U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Centers. Lesion types included homogenous and non-homogenous leukoplakia, smokeless tobacco lesion (STL), papilloma, lichen planus and erythroplakia. Prior to diagnosis, 29 subjects (39.7%) were unaware of their lesion. In bivariate analyses, lesion self-awareness was associated with anatomic location, multifocal/generalized appearance, pain, oral sores, and cigar use (p<0.05). Awareness varied with lesion diagnosis and was more likely with STL and less likely with homogenous leukoplakia (p<0.05). In multivariate analyses, awareness was predicted by the presence of a lesion on easily visible mucosa (adjusted odds ratio, OR=11.2) and a history of mouth sores (OR= 11.2). These findings identified marked variations in patient self-awareness of oral premalignant conditions.

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