Cytomorphometric analysis of crack cocaine effects on the oral mucosa

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This study assessed the effect of smoking crack cocaine on the nuclear area (NA), the cytoplasmic area (CA), and the nucleus-to-cytoplasm area ratio (NA/CA) of oral squamous epithelial cells.

Study design.

Oral smears were collected from clinically normal-appearing mucosa by liquid-based exfoliative cytology of 40 individuals (20 crack users and 20 nonusers) and analyzed for quantitative techniques using an image analysis system.


Mean values of NA for experimental and control groups were, respectively, 49.85 μm2 and 62.68 μm2 (P < .01). CA showed the following mean values: 1820.9 μm2 (experimental) and 1780.8 μm2 (control). NA/CA for the experimental group was 0.03; the control group was 0.04 (P < .01).


This study revealed that crack cocaine was able to induce significant changes on the oral epithelial cells. Since this illicit drug is normally used in association with other risk factors for oral cancer (tobacco and alcohol), crack cocaine abusers should have frequent preventive oral exams.

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