Incidence rates for oral leukoplakia and lichen planus in a Japanese population

Toru Nagao, Noriaki Ikeda, Hideo Fukano, Shuji Hashimoto, Kazuo Shimozato, Saman Warnakulasuriya

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37 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Data on the incidence rates of potentially malignant diseases of the oral cavity in different populations is meagre. This is the first study to report on the age-specific incidence of oral leukoplakia and oral lichen planus from an industrialized country. METHODS: Annual screening for oral cancer and precancer was undertaken in Municipal Health Centres in Tokoname city, Japan from 1995 to 1998. A total of 9536 volunteers aged 40-95 years participated in this programme. A cohort of 6340 (67%) subjects attended annual mouth examinations following a negative screen result at entry, allowing 13 072 person-years of observations. Some associated risk factors (tobacco and alcohol misuse) and health-related variables were also evaluated. RESULTS: Over a 4-year follow-up period, 18 new oral leukoplakias (all homogenous; 11 idiopathic and seven tobacco-associated) and 24 oral lichen planus (22 reticular, one erythematous and one ulcerative) were detected at screening and confirmed by re-examination at specialist units. The age-adjusted incidence rate for leukoplakia was 409.2 (95% CI: 90.6-727.9) in male and 70.0 (95% CI: 17.9-121.8) in female per 100 000 person-years observations. For lichen planus, the corresponding rates were 59.7 (95% CI: 7.4-112.1) and 188.0 (95% CI: 96.0-280.1). The age-adjusted incidence rate for tobacco-associated leukoplakia in males was almost 12 times compared with female (560.3 vs. 45.2 per 100 000). Age-specific incidence rates for oral leukoplakia varied by age groups. New oral leukoplakias were more prevalent on gingival/alveolar ridge (33.3%) than in other oral sites, and lichen planus at buccal site (33.3%). Prevalence of smoking habits among those positive for leukoplakia (38.9%) was higher compared with the screen-negatives (26.4%) but these differences did not reach statistical significance (P = 0.232). Regular drinking was not related to occurrence of either oral leukoplakia or oral lichen planus. In cases with diabetes mellitus, relative risk for oral lichen planus adjusted by logistic regression was 6.4 (95% CI: 2.4-17.6), suggesting an association. CONCLUSIONS: The reported incidence rates for oral leukoplakia in this Japanese population are somewhat higher to those reported from India, the risk habits of the two groups being markedly different. The reported rates for oral leukoplakia and lichen planus allow estimation of service needs in specialist oral medicine clinics and for the training of primary care dentists. A high incidence of idiopathic leukoplakia found in this study raises challenges to the strategy of screening high-risk populations aimed at conserving resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)532-539
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Oral Pathology and Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 01-10-2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Oral Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Cancer Research
  • Periodontics


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