Background Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is a relatively common epithelial malignancy, and thus represents a significant public health problem. Early detection improves quality of life for affected patients. Identification of molecular markers (or biomarkers) which can predict disease progression is necessary for better management of these disorders. A correlation of cholinesterase with tumourigenesis, cell proliferation and cell differentiation has been observed. Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE; pseudocholinesterase) has been shown to be a biochemical marker for cervical cancer which is also an epithelial malignancy. In this study, we sought to estimate and compare serum BChE levels in healthy controls and patients with biopsy-proven oral squamous cell cancer (also an epithelial malignancy) before definitive therapy as radiotherapy or chemotherapy may alter the levels of BChE and may act as a confounding variable. Method After obtaining consent from biopsy proven oral cancer patients (n= 39) (before onset of any definitive treatment), and from age- and sex-matched healthy controls (n = 20), 2ml of blood was collected. After clot formation samples were centrifuged, serum was collected for estimation of BChE. Results Pre-treatment serum BChE levels were significantly elevated (p < 0.0001) in oral cancer patients compared to that of controls. BChE levels showed a significant increase (p = 0.005) with advancing stage in oral cancer patients. Conclusion Our results show there could be a role for serum BChE in determining the prognosis of oral cancer.
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