Prevent Lip Melanoma
With summer quickly approaching most of us can’t wait to get outside by the pool, play sports or take a vacation to the beach. Failure to protect your skin, especially the soft tissues like your lips, could eventually lead to melanoma (skin cancer). Did you know that melanoma can also develop inside your mouth? Alabama Family Dentistry recommends annual testing for lip and/or oral melanoma as part of a good preventive care http://alabamafamilydentists.com/dental-services/preventative-care/regime. When caught early, melanoma can be successfully treated allowing patients to lead happy, healthy lives. If you suspect that there is an abnormal growth on your lips or inside your mouth, contact Alabama Family Dentistry, with four locations serving patients in central Alabama, immediately for an examination.
Causes and Lifestyle
Tobacco Use: Studies show that 90% of all lip/oral melanoma diagnosed patients use tobacco in various forms including cigarettes, pipes, cigars, “herbal” cigarettes, snuff, or chewing tobacco.
Alcohol Consumption: Heavy alcohol use by itself increases the risk of oral cancer, but when paired with smoking it packs a double whammy!
HPV Virus: Some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) can infect the mouth and throat. These viruses are passed through sexual contact. HPV infection is linked to cancer at the base of the tongue, the back of the throat, in the tonsils, and in the soft palate.
Sun Exposure: Cancer of the lips is generally the result of too much sun exposure. If you’re going to be out in the sun, use a lip balm with sunscreen and wear a hat. The risk of lip cancer increases with smoking.
Betel nuts: Though it is not common in this country, chewing betel nuts can cause oral cancer. Betel nuts are a type of palm seed that is wrapped with a betel leaf and sometimes mixed with spices, sweeteners, and tobacco. Chewing them is most common in Asia. The risk of oral cancer from betel nuts is increased with alcohol and tobacco use.
What to Look For
Oral cancer can develop on the lips, gums, tongue, lining of the cheeks, and the floor/roof of the mouth and in many instances individuals do not know that melanoma is present until they experience discomfort. Some of the more common symptoms include the following:
• White, red, or mixed red and white spots (or patches)
• A sore or irritation in the mouth that bleeds easily and doesn’t heal
• Bleeding in the mouth
• Persistent tenderness, pain, or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips
• A lump or thickening in the cheek or neck
• A thick, rough, or crusty spot, or a small area that looks like it’s wearing away anywhere in the mouth
• Difficulty chewing, swallowing, talking, or moving your jaw or tongue
• A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down
• A change in your voice that isn’t due to a cold or allergies
• An earache that doesn’t go away
• Numbness of the lower lip and chin
Monitor and Prevent
The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid the lifestyle contributors previously mentioned, always wear sunscreen, and visit your dentist regularly. It’s very important to spot any suspicious skin changes on your lips or in your mouth before it becomes a problem. Schedule your baseline screening today. Alabama Family Dentistry has four convenient locations including: Warrior Family Dentistry, Gardendale Family Dentistry, Acton Road Family Dentistry in Vestavia Hills, and Sumiton Family Dentistry in Sumiton.