Lip Cancer Open the Oral Cancer pop-up dialog box
Oral Cancer – White Spots Open the Oral Cancer pop-up dialog box
Oral Cancer – Red SoreOpen Popup Dialog
Oral cancer refers to cancer that develops in one of the parts that make up the mouth (oral cavity). Oral cancer can occur in:
Inner cheek lining
Floor of the mouth (under the tongue)
Cancer that occurs in the mouth is sometimes called oral cancer or cancer of the oral cavity.
The signs and symptoms of oral cancer can include:
A sore on your lip or mouth that does not heal
A white or reddish spot in your mouth
A growth or lump in your mouth
Pain in the mouth
Difficult or painful swallowing
Oral cancer occurs when cells in the lips or mouth develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. A cell’s DNA contains the instructions that tell a cell what to do. Changes in mutations cause cells to continue to grow and divide when healthy cells die. The accumulation of abnormal cancer cells in the mouth can form a tumor. Over time, they can spread to the mouth and other areas of the head and neck, or other parts of the body.
Oral cancer most commonly starts in the thin, flat cells (squamous cell carcinoma) that line your lips and the inside of your mouth. Most cancers of the mouth are squamous cell carcinomas.
It is not known what causes the mutations in squamous cell carcinoma that lead to oral cancer. However, doctors have identified factors that can increase the risk of oral cancer.
Factors that can increase your risk of oral cancer include:
Smoking of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff
Heavy consumption of alcohol
Excessive sun exposure of your lips
A sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV)
A weakened immune system
There is no proven way to prevent oral cancer. However, you can lower your risk of oral cancer if you:
Stop smoking or don’t start. If you use tobacco, quit. If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start. Consuming tobacco, whether smoked or chewed, exposes the cells in your mouth to dangerous cancer-causing chemicals.
Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Chronic alcohol consumption can irritate the cells in your mouth, making them prone to oral cancer. If you want to drink alcohol, do it in moderation. For healthy adults this means up to one drink per day for women of all ages and men over 65 years and up to two drinks per day for men under 65 years of age.
Avoid excessive sun exposure on your lips. Protect the skin on your lips from the sun by staying in the shade whenever possible. Wear a wide-brimmed hat that will effectively shade your entire face, including your mouth. Apply a lip sunscreen product as part of your sun protection routine.