What is the increased risk of oral cancer in patients with oral lichen planus (OLP) and how can the risk be mitigated?

Updated: Sep 15, 2020
  • Author: Jaisri R Thoppay, DDS, MBA, MS; Chief Editor: Jeff Burgess, DDS, MSD  more...
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Patients with oral lichen planus (OLP) may have a slightly increased risk of oral cancer, although the precise risk is unknown.

The risk of oral cancer in patients with oral lichen planus may be reduced by means of the following:

  • Elimination of smoking and alcohol consumption

  • Effective treatment of atrophic, erosive, and plaque oral lichen planus lesions

  • Consumption of a nutritious diet including fresh fruit and vegetables

  • Elimination of C albicans superinfection

  • Clinical examination with any exacerbation of symptoms or change in lesion presentation

  • Regular clinical examination and repeat biopsy as required: Oral brush biopsy can be used to limit the number of scalpel biopsies (see Oral Brush Biopsy with Computer-Assisted Analysis). The frequency of brush biopsy for oral lichen planus patient follow-up has not been established. However, if the clinical features of the lesions change, scalpel biopsy should be repeated.

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