Histologic variation in high grade oral epithelial dysplasia when associated with high-risk human papillomavirus

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Reported cytologic alterations associated with high-risk human papillomavirus (HR-HPV) in oral epithelial dysplasia (HPV-OED) need further characterization.

Study Design.

Archival cases of high-grade oral epithelial dysplasia (hgOED) (N = 38) were assigned a cytologic score (CS) based on the average number of mitotic, karyorrhectic, and apoptotic cells per high-power field. Three groups were then generated on the basis of increasing CS: Focal (group 1, N = 14), Intermediate (group 2, N = 12), and Diffuse (group 3, N = 12). Polymerase chain reaction–based HPV genotyping and p16 immunohistochemistry were performed.


HR-HPV was found significantly more in group 3 (83.3%) compared with groups 1 and 2 (group 1&2; 42.9% and 41.7%, respectively; P = .047). HPV16 predominated in HR-HPV-positive cases (90.5%). By location, the tongue or the floor of mouth was associated with all groups (P = .04). Increasing CS was associated with a slightly younger age (P = .04) and increased expression of p16 (P = .005). CS and p16 expression were not sensitive but were highly specific predictors for HR-HPV presence. Based on limited follow-up information, HPV-OED does not differ in clinical aggressiveness compared with conventional OED.


Increased CS in hgOED is strongly associated with HR-HPV (mostly HPV16) and p16 expression. CS and p16 expression are specific predictors of HR-HPV presence. Further molecular study and long-term follow-up of HPV-OED are needed.

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