Oral erythroplakia and oral erythroplakia-like oral squamous cell carcinoma – what’s the difference?

Jenny Öhman, Ayelet Zlotogorski-Hurvitz, Alex Dobriyan, Shoshana Reiter, Marilena Vered, Jaana Willberg, Carlo Lajolo, Maria Siponen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Oral erythroplakia (OE) is a rare oral potentially malignant disorder, that has a high rate of malignant transformation. The definition of OE still lacks uniformity. In particular, lesions that look clinically like erythroplakias, but are histopathologically diagnosed as squamous cell carcinomas are still sometimes called erythroplakias. The purpose of this study is to present demographic and clinicopathologic features of a series of OEs and clinically oral erythroplakia -like squamous cell carcinomas (OELSCC), to study their differences and to discuss the definition of OE. Methods: A multicenter retrospective case series of OEs and OELSCCs. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data. Results: 11 cases of OEs and 9 cases of OELSCCs were identified. The mean age of the OE patients was 71 years and 72.7% were female, while the mean age of the OELSCC patients was 69 years, and all were female. 9% of the OE and 22% of the OELSCC patients had smoked or were current smokers. 72.7% of the OEs and 55.5% of OELSCCs were uniformly red lesions. 63.6% of the OE and 22% of the OELSCC patients had a previous diagnosis of oral lichenoid disease (OLD). The malignant transformation rate of OE was 9% in a mean of 73 months. Conclusions: OE and OELSCC may arise de novo or in association with OLD. Tobacco and alcohol use were not prevalent in the present cases. The clinical features of OEs and OELSCC are similar, but symptoms, uneven surface and ulceration may be more common in OELSCCs than in OEs. Clinical recognition of OE is important since it may mimic other, more innocuous red lesions of the oral mucosa. The diagnosis of OE requires biopsy and preferably an excision. Clarification of the definition of OE would aid in clinical diagnostics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number859
JournalBMC Oral Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Erytroplakia
  • Oral erythroplakia
  • Oral potentially malignant disorder
  • Oral squamous cell carcinoma

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Dentistry


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