Proteins of the lysyl oxidase (LOX) family are important modulators of the extracellular matrix. However, they have an important role in the tumour development as well as in tumour progression. To evaluate the diagnostic and prognostic value of the LOX protein in oral and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) we performed QRT-PCR and immunohistochemical analysis on two tissue microarrays (622 tissue samples in total). Significantly higher LOX expression was detected in high grade dysplastic oral mucosa as well as in OSCC when compared to normal oral mucosa (P < 0.001). High LOX expression was correlated with clinical TNM stage (P = 0.020), lymph node metastases for the entire cohort (P < 0.001), as well as in the subgroup of small primary tumours (T1/T2, P < 0.001). Moreover, high LOX expression was correlated with poor overall survival (P = 0.004) and disease specific survival (P = 0.037). In a multivariate analysis, high LOX expression was an independent prognostic factor, predicting unfavourable overall survival.In summary, LOX expression is an independent prognostic biomarker and a predictor of lymph node metastasis in OSCC. Moreover, LOX overexpression may be an early phenomenon in the pathogenesis of OSCC and thus an attractive novel target for chemopreventive and therapeutic strategies. (c) 2009 UICC.