The inactivation of p16 and p14ARF is considered to be an important step in the carcinogenesis of oropharygeal carcinomas. This consideration is supported by the observation of multiple allelic losses in the coding loci of chromosome 9p21 in squamous cell carcinomas and in dysplastic premalignant lesions. The present study hypothesized that comparable alterations already occur in leukoplakia, which are seen as potential predecessors of oral squamous cell carcinomas and that it is possible to differ leukoplakia with from leukoplakia without further malignant transformation. Furthermore we evaluated, whether such leukoplakia show sequence alterations in the genes p16 and p14ARF, which are capable to cause a limitation in gene function. The results show that the LOH pattern in genes p16 and p14ARF occur as well in leuplakia with malignant transformation as in leukoplakia, that do not show clinical alterations. The rate of allelic loss did not differ significantly. Overall, the incidence of allelic loss was lower in leuplakia compared to succeeding squamous-cell carcinomas (p < 0,05). The results further illustrated an increase in LOH patterns in dyplastic leukoplakia, without reaching statistical significance. Significant increases in allelic losses were found in heavy smokers, (p < 0,05). PCR analysis of the exons 1-alpha, exon 1-beta and exon 2 in leukoplakia, containing LOH patterns did not show genetic alterations. Thus we concluded, that gene deletion and gene mutation have a minor role in the inactivation process of p16 and p14ARF in oral leukoplakia. Representing an early process in carcinogenesis, gene deletion and mutation occur in leukoplakia with and without malignant transformation. Therefore, taken as a singular parameter they represent an uncertain criteria to assess the potential of malignant transformation. However they could provide information in combination with other genetic factors like chromosomal methylation patterns and histology.