Objective: Oral leukoplakia is the most common oral potentially malignant disorder. Malignant transformation of oral leukoplakia occurs at an annual rate of 1%–7%. WHO-defined classic epithelial dysplasia is an important predictor of malignant transformation of oral leukoplakia, but we have previously shown in a proof of concept study that prediction improves by incorporation of an architectural pattern of dysplasia, also coined as differentiated dysplasia. We aimed to analyze this finding in a larger cohort of patients. Method: For this retrospective study 176 oral leukoplakia patients were included. Biopsies for all patients were assessed for the presence of dysplasia and analyzed for cytokeratin 13 and 17 expression. Moreover, the inter-observer agreement for the diagnosis of differentiated dysplasia was determined. Results: In total, 33 of 176 patients developed oral squamous cell carcinoma during follow-up. Presence of classic epithelial dysplasia increased cancer risk two-fold (HR = 2.18, p = 0.026). Lesions without classic epithelial dysplasia could be further risk-stratified by the presence of differentiated dysplasia (HR = 7.36, p < 0.001). Combined classic epithelial and differentiated dysplasia imparted a seven-fold increased risk of malignant transformation (7.34, p = 0.001). Inter-observer agreement for the diagnosis of dysplasia, including differentiated dysplasia, was moderate (κ = 0.56, p < 0.001). Discussion: This study emphasizes the importance of the recognition of the architectural pattern of differentiated dysplasia as a separate entity for risk prediction of malignant transformation of oral leukoplakia. Presence of any pattern of dysplasia results in accurate prediction of malignant transformation risk of oral leukoplakia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)930-938
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Oral Pathology and Medicine
Issue number10
Early online date25 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • differentiated dysplasia
  • malignant transformation
  • oral dysplasia
  • oral leukoplakia
  • oral potentially malignant disorder

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