Lip cancer is a prevalent type cancer that develops in the oral cavity. There are two types of lip cancers: basal cell and squamous cell. Basal cell carcinomas develop in the last epidermal section while squamous cancers can grow in even lower skin layers. Basal cell cancers are more prevalent than squamous cell cancers and less likely to spread to other areas of the body.
Certain infections, like HPV, can increase the risk of lip cancer development. Lip cancers can also be caused by immunosuppression; for instance, if a person has undergone surgery for an organ transplant, then certain drugs must be taken so that the implant isn’t rejected by the body. However, these drugs can cause the immune system to be vulnerable, thus increasing the risk for other conditions, like cancer.
Lifestyle choices like smoking, sitting out in the sun too long, and consuming lots of alcohol can all contribute to lip cancer. Lastly, men with lighter-toned skin are also at a higher risk compared to other demographics.
A person may have lip cancer if they have a light-toned or dark-toned area on the inside of their mouth. An ulcer, lump, or blister that develops on the lips and doesn’t heal could be a sign of cancer. Pain while swallowing or discomfort in the mouth, ears, or cheeks is common. Chronic sore throats, coughing, or swollen lymph nodes are also common signs of this cancer.
Lip cancer has a number of causes, most of which are related to the patient’s lifestyle and daily habits. Its most common cause is the use of tobacco. Any type of tobacco use can cause this type of cancer, from cigarettes to cigars, snuff, pipes and chewing tobacco. The heavy use of alcohol is another common cause. For those who both use tobacco and drink heavily, there is an even higher risk. In addition, getting too much sun on the face and lips can cause this cancer. It doesn’t have to be natural sunlight in order to cause lip cancer. Even indoor, artificial sun in the form of sunlamps and tanning beds can cause it after long-term exposure. Having a light skin color is a major risk factor. Age is a risk factor, as the cumulative effect of all of these causes may take time to cause the cancer to develop. Males have a greater risk of developing it, as do those who are infected with the sexually transmitted disease HPV. Cancer begins on the lips when there are cells that have DNA mutations. These mutations cause rapid dividing and growing instead of the cells dying off as they normally would. That leads to tumors on the lips that can spread throughout the body.
Treatments include cryotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery are all options for lip cancer. Since lip cancer rarely spreads to other areas of the body, these treatments have a good success rate if a patient seeks out a doctor’s help early on. In more severe cases, portions of the mouth, larynx, or lymph nodes may need to be removed.
One of the most important things you can do to avoid developing lip cancer is to never smoke. If you already smoke, take steps to quit to avoid adding to any damage already done. It’s also important to drink alcohol in moderation to avoid another major risk factor. If you are often in direct sunlight, use a protective lip balm that will block UV rays. Avoid the use of tanning beds and sun lamps completely. If you would like to tan, consider a self-tanning lotion that can mimic the effects of a tanning bed.