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Melanin depigmentation of the palatal mucosa in reverse smokers: a preliminary study.

The melanin pigmentation in the palate of Indian reverse smokers was histologically studied in 80 biopsies, which were compared with corresponding tissue from 49 nontobacco users. The morphology of epithelium containing melanin in its basal part was normal in smokers and nonsmokers, in contrast to areas with a local melanin depigmentation of the epithelium found in some of the reverse smokers. Here an epithelial thinning, inflammation in the underlying connective tissue, and eventually a cancer was found. The histologic appearance was in accordance with the theory that as long as a smoker's melanosis or a genetic melanin pigmentation is present, melanin functions as a defence against toxic agents penetrating into the oral mucosa.

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