On the natural course of oral lichen lesions in a Swedish population-based sample

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The aim was to assess the natural course of oral lichen lesions (OLL) among unselected, non-consulting individuals.


A cohort of 327 subjects with OLL, confirmed in 1973–1974 during a population-based survey in two Swedish municipalities, was followed through January 2002 via record linkages with nationwide and essentially complete registers. A sample of 80 drawn from the 194 surviving subjects who still resided in the area in 1993–1995 was invited for interview and oral re-examination.


At the end of follow-up, one case of oral cancer was detected, while 0.4 were expected. The overall mortality among subjects with OLL was not significantly different from that in the 15 817 OLL-free subjects who participated in the initial population based survey in 1973–1974. The lesion had disappeared in 14 (39%) of 36 re-examined subjects with white OLLs in 1973–1974, and four (11%) had transformed into red types. In the corresponding group of 19 with red forms initially, five (26%) had become lesion free and four (21%) had switched to white types. Although the cohort size does not permit firm conclusions regarding oral cancer risk, the natural course over up to 30 years appears to be benign in the great majority.

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