Topical application of vitamin A to oral leukoplakia: A clinical case series

Joel B. Epstein*, Meir Gorsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND. Due to the possibility of malignant transformation of oral leukoplakia, these lesions must be assessed and managed closely and, if not resolved, must be reassessed on a regular basis. METHODS. This study evaluated the use of topical 0.05% vitamin A (tretinoin) acid gel for the treatment of oral leukoplakia. Tretinoin was applied topically 4 times a day for the management of nonmalignant oral white lesions in 26 patients. The clinical response was evaluated in all patients and posttreatment biopsies were performed in ten patients. RESULTS. The mean age of the patients at the time of diagnosis was 62 years. Of the 26 patients, 50% were tobacco users. Patients were followed for a mean of 23 months. Approximately 27% of the patients had a complete clinical remission. Recurrence of leukoplakia was observed in approximately 40% of patients in whom complete clinical remission occurred if topical applications were discontinued. A 50% reduction in the clinical grade of leukoplakia from a mean of 2.8 to 1.4 on a scale ranging from 0 (no leukoplakia) to 4 (speckled leukoplakia) was observed. When the pretreatment and posttreatment biopsies from 10 patients were evaluated, no change in the mean histologic grade (between mild and moderate dysplasia) was noted; however, some reduction in the histologic grade was noted in 3 of these patients (30%). CONCLUSIONS. The use of topical vitamin A acid showed a limited effect in controlling oral leukoplakia. Further studies are needed to establish the appropriate indication, efficacy, and best choice for chemoprevention agents. Close follow-up of all patients with oral leukoplakia is required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)921-927
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - 15 Sep 1999


  • Dysplasia
  • Oral leukoplakia
  • Retinoids
  • Topical vitamin A


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