Acetaldehyde production and microbial colonization in oral squamous cell carcinoma and oral lichenoid disease

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The main aim of this prospective study was to explore the ability of the oral microbiome to produce acetaldehyde in ethanol incubation.

Study Design.

A total of 90 patients [30 oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC); 30 oral lichenoid disease (OLD); 30 healthy controls (CO)] were enrolled in the study. Microbial samples were taken from the mucosa using a filter paper method. The density of microbial colonization was calculated and the spectrum analyzed. Microbial acetaldehyde production was measured by gas chromatography.


The majority (68%) of cultures produced carcinogenic levels of acetaldehyde (>100 μM) when incubated with ethanol (22 mM). The mean acetaldehyde production by microbes cultured from smoker samples was significantly higher (213 μM) than from non-smoker samples (141 μM) (P =.0326).


The oral microbiota from OSCC, OLD patients and healthy individuals are able to produce carcinogenic levels of acetaldehyde. The present provisional study suggests smoking may increase the production of acetaldehyde.

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