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Though not terribly common, lip cancer has the potential to cause serious health and aesthetic issues for stricken individuals and, if left untreated, has the potential to spread and cause life-threatening health problems.

Cancer On Lip Defined

Cancer of the lip is medically classified as an oral cavity cancer that impacts the skin and inner tissues of the lips. Scientific researchers consider lip skin cancer to be one of the more prevalent malignancies in this particular categorization. That said, however, the condition is relatively rare. In the early late 2000’s, the cancer accounted for roughly only two percent of all malignancies per 100,000 diagnosed cases in the United States.


Medical professionals suggest that the vast majority of cases precipitate from frequent or excessive adherence to specific lifestyle habits. Many reports indicate individuals that receive diagnosis have a significant history smoking cigarettes, consuming exorbitant amounts of alcohol or exposing the lips to overabundant concentrations of sunlight. They say sun exposure is among  the most significant contributing factors. In fact, individuals who work outdoors comprise many of the cases. These individuals are at an increasing risk for developing the ailment.

Potential Risk Factors

Though you might stand at a significantly higher risk of developing lip skin cancer by partaking in the preceding lifestyle habits, other individual factors can also elevate your risk. These provisions include being male, possessing fair color skin, being at least 40 years old and having contracted the Human Papilomavirus (HPV).

Physical Manifestations

In its earliest stages, cancer on lip may be asymptomatic. When manifestations do occur or when the malignancy has progressed beyond the earliest stages, you might experience problematic occurrences like:

  • A sore or bump that appears on the lip and is slow to heal or lingers
  • Lip discomfort
  • Unexplained lip bleeding
  • Pain or swelling of the jaw or other associated oral regions
  • White or red patches or blotches appearing on the lips

It is important to reiterate that these symptoms could be features of far less serious ailments than cancer. However, if said occurrences linger or are uncomfortable, investigation by a doctor or dentist is warranted.

Possible Complications

When detected early, lip malignancies are more than 90 percent curable. However, when left unchecked, said maladies could spread to other oral regions such as the jaw, tongue, the throat or distant organs. Like any other malignancy, metastasized lip cancer is far more challenging to treat or cure and the overall survival rates drop precipitously. Furthermore, even if more advanced cases that are treated, associated treatments might result in issues like permanent disfigurement, pain, speech problems and dental issues that might make eating difficult.


Cancer on lip can be diagnosed by either a medical doctor or dentist. Abnormalities that might suggest the presence of cancer are relatively easy to detect through routine physical and dental examinations. Should a medical professional fear a cancer diagnosis, said individual will typically first order a biopsy, which is the extraction of a small portion of suspicious tissue.

If the sample returns positive, your healthcare provider may then employ a number of other diagnostic tools to determine the type of cancer, as well as how far the malignancy has advanced. Such tools include X-rays, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Endoscopy and various blood tests.

Potential Treatment Options

The specific treatment protocol your doctor opts to pursue will depend upon numerous different factors including your:

  • Age
  • General health
  • The specific type of cancer
  • The stage at which the disease is diagnosed
  • If the malignancy has traveled to other bodily regions

Typically, if the cancer is small and localized, minor surgery to remove the malignant growth may be the only therapeutic protocol required. In more complicated cases, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of the two procedures might be necessitated.


While it might be impossible to completely prevent the development of lip cancer, engaging in certain actions may significantly reduce your risk. Such actions include:

  • Quitting cigarette smoking or other similar products like pipes or chewing tobacco
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Avoiding exposing your lips to direct sunlight
  • When sunlight exposure is unavoidable, try to shading lips with balm or some type of protective covering
  • Refraining from the use of tanning beds

Additionally, many healthcare professionals recommend obtaining regular dental checkups. In numerous instances, dentists can detect early stage lip cancers during routine checkups or other dental procedures.

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