The Challenges of Defining Oral Cancer: Analysis of an Ontological Approach
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- Tapia, J.L. & Goldberg, L.J. Head and Neck Pathol (2011) 5: 376. doi:10.1007/s12105-011-0300-0
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An important inconsistency currently exists in the literature on oral cancer. Reviewing this literature, one finds that the term oral cancer is defined and described with great variation. In a search in PubMed, at least 17 different terms were found for titles of papers reporting data on oral cancer. The variability of the terms used for designating anatomic regions and type of malignant neoplasms for reporting oral cancer has hampered the ability of researchers to effectively retrieve information concerning oral cancer. Therefore, it is sometimes extremely difficult to provide meaningful comparisons among various studies of oral cancer. Recently, a new ontological strategy that is rooted in consensus-based controlled vocabularies has been proposed to improve the consistency of data in dental research (Smith et al. in J Am Dent Assoc 141:1173–1175, 2010). In this paper, we analyzed the terminology dilemma on oral cancer and explained the current situation. We proposed a possible solution to the dilemma using an ontology-based approach. The advantages for applying this strategy are also discussed.