Introduction: Tobacco contains several genotoxic agents including N-nitrosamine which has the potential to cause significant nuclear damage. Nuclear blebbing is a form of protrusion on the nuclear membrane and could potentially be caused by tobacco-induced genotoxicity and is closely associated with malignancy. Thus, the present study aimed to assess if tobacco-associated oral potentially malignant disorders including oral submucous fibrosis (OSF) and oral leukoplakia have a higher nuclear blebbing frequency than patients with normal oral mucosa with no history of tobacco use. Methods: The sample consisted of patients with OSF (n = 30) and oral leukoplakia (n = 10) and normal oral mucosa (n = 10). Exfoliated cells collected from the study groups were smeared on a clean microscopic slide and stained by May-Grunwald-Giemsa stain. A baseline frequency of nuclear blebbing was evaluated using a bright-field microscope with a ×100 objective. The number of nuclear blebbing per 1,000 epithelial cells was recorded and expressed in percentage. ANOVA, the Mann-Whitney U test, and Spearman’s correlation were used to analyze the data. Results: The mean rank of distribution of nuclear blebbing showed significant difference between all 3 groups, with the highest frequency noted in leukoplakia, followed by oral submucous and normal oral mucosa. Within OSF, the frequency of nuclear blebbing significantly increased from early stage to advanced stage. In OSF, a statistically significant positive linear correlation was noted between duration (in years), frequency (per day) of tobacco use, clinical grading, and nuclear blebbing. Discussion/Conclusions: The frequency of nuclear blebbing was significantly higher in oral potentially malignant disorders than normal mucosa. Nuclear blebbing also exhibited a strong dose- and time-dependent correlation with tobacco usage and clinical staging in OSF. The nuclear blebbing frequency could be a noninvasive, economic tool to assess malignant risk in tobacco-induced oral potentially malignant disorders.

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