Context: p53 tumor suppressor gene which is a frequent target for mutations in a high percentage of oral cancer is regarded as an early event in carcinogenesis. Aim: The role of p53 was assessed in potentially malignant oral disorders (PMOD) to ascertain its prognostic significance. Settings and Design: Retrospective case series analysis was carried out on 30 paraffin-embedded tissue blocks of confirmed oral leukoplakia with dysplasia. Materials and Methods: 10 cases of each of mild, moderate, and severe dysplasia were immunohistochemically analyzed for p53 expression. The intensity of staining, intracellular localization, and basal and/or suprabasal distribution were assessed. Statistics: The intensity of p53 staining and its distribution were analyzed by the Chi-square test. The intracellular localization of p53 in different grades of dysplasia was subjected to one way ANOVA. P<0.05 was considered significant. Results: 21/30 cases of epithelial dysplasia were positive for p53 immunopositivity. Intensity of p53 expression was strong in 12 cases and weak in 9 cases (P<0.05). p53 positivity was confined to basal cells in mild dysplasia, while severe dysplasia showed both basal and suprabasal staining (P<0.05). Nuclear and cytoplasmic staining between and within the groups were F=9.027 and F=6.465 respectively with high significance noted between mild dysplasia and severe dysplasia. Conclusions: Increased p53 expressivity and greater cellular localization with increase in the severity of dysplasia indicated a direct association between the degree of epithelial dysplasia and p53 accretion, which occurs as an early event in oral carcinogenesis.
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