Leukoplakia & Erythroplakia

Oral leukoplakia, the best-known pre-malignant oral lesion, is defined as "a white patch or plaque that cannot be characterized clinically or pathologically as any other disease." Analogous red lesions are called erythroplakia. Combined red and white lesions are also known as speckled leukoplakia or erythroleukoplakia.


  • Premalignant


  • Leukoplakia and erythroplakia are often subtle and asymptomatic.
  • Lesions begin as a subtle white or red patch.
  • Progression may lead to slightly elevated plaques that ulcerate.
  • Lesions with ulceration are more likely to be cancerous.
  • Erythroplakia and speckled leukoplakia are more likely to exhibit dysplasia or carcinoma upon microscopic examination.


  • All unexplained white lesions persisting for more than two weeks should be biopsied.
  • Dysplastic lesions should be removed.
  • Cryotherapy and laser ablation have been used, although these methods do not allow for tissue preservation and microscopic examination.


Joel Goodman DMD
Joel Goodman DMD
John McDowell, DDS
John McDowell, DDS


Ellen Eisenberg, DMD
Ellen Eisenberg, DMD


Neville BW, Day TA. Oral cancer and precancerous lesions. Ca: a Cancer Journal for Clinicians 2002; 52(4):195-215.

Van der Waal I. Potentially malignant disorders of the oral and oropharyngeal mucosa; terminology, classification and present concepts of management. Oral Oncol. 2009; 45(4-5):317-23.