A decrease in the almost fifty percent mortality rate from oral cancer is needed urgently. Improvements in early diagnosis and more effective preventive treatments could affect such a decrease. Towards this end, we undertook for the first time an in-depth mass spectrometry-based quantitative shotgun proteomics study of non-invasively collected oral brush biopsies. Proteins isolated from brush biopsies from healthy normal tissue, oral premalignant lesion tissue (OPMLs), oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) and matched control tissue were compared. In replicated proteomic datasets, the secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI) protein stood out based on its decrease in abundance in both OPML and OSCC lesion tissues compared to healthy normal tissue. Western blotting in additional brushed biopsy samples confirmed a trend of gradual decreasing SLPI abundance between healthy normal and OPML tissue, with a larger decrease in OSCC lesion tissue. A similar SLPI decrease was observed in-vitro comparing model OPML and OSCC cell lines. In addition, exfoliated oral cells in patients' whole saliva showed a loss of SLPI correlated with oral cancer progression. These results, combined with proteomics data indicating a decrease in SLPI in matched healthy control tissue from OSCC patients compared to tissue from healthy normal tissue, suggested a systemic decrease of SLPI in oral cells correlated with oral cancer development. Finally, in-vitro experiments showed that treatment with SLPI significantly decreased NF-kB activity in an OPML cell line. The findings indicate anti-inflammatory activity in OPML, supporting a mechanistic role of SLPI in OSCC progression and suggesting its potential for preventative treatment of at-risk oral lesions. Collectively, our results show for the first time the potential for SLPI as a mechanism-based, non-invasive biomarker of oral cancer progression with potential in preventive treatment.