How common is lip cancer, and how is it detected? What are the treatment options for oral cancer? Here's what you need to know about this condition.

Early Detection of Lip Cancer: 7 Things You Need to Know

The lip is a frequently injured area of the body that can often go unnoticed by the patient until it becomes seriously infected. Trauma to the lip and surrounding mouth area can cause innocuous injuries that can transform into serious and even life-threatening conditions.

Untreated lip injuries may be the first symptom of lip cancer, and due to the innocuous nature of this type of cancer, it is often late-stage for treatment by the time it is detected.

If you love the beauty and shape of your lips and want to fight to protect them, read on for seven facts about lip cancer you need to know.


1. How Common Is Lip Cancer

Lip cancer is not as common as other types of cancer, but it does occur. The National Cancer Institute estimates that there are 0.5 new cases of lip cancer for every 100,000 men and women each year. While this may seem like a small number, it is important to remember that cancer can be deadly. 

Lip cancer is most common in men over the age of 50. This is likely due to the fact that men are more likely to smoke than women, and smoking is a risk factor for developing lip cancer. If you have any concerns about your risk for lip cancer, be sure to speak with your doctor.

2. How Is It Detected?

Lip cancer is often detected during a regular dental or medical exam. Your doctor may notice a growth or discoloration on your lip, or you may experience symptoms such as a sore that doesn’t heal, bleeding, or a painless lump.

If your doctor suspects you have lip cancer, they will likely refer you to a specialist for further testing. This may include a biopsy, in which a small sample of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope. Imaging tests, such as an MRI or CT scan, may also be used to diagnose lip cancer.

3. The Types of Lip Cancer

Lip cancer starts in the cells of the lips. Depending on the location and severity, there are three main types of lip cancer:

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This is the most common type of lip cancer and starts in the flat cells that make up the majority of the surface of the skin. It typically appears as a firm, red lump on the lip. 

Basal Cell Carcinoma

This type of cancer starts in the basal cells, which are located in the bottom layer of the skin. It usually appears as a small, pinkish lump on the lip.

In some cases, basal cell carcinomas can also ulcerate or bleed. If left untreated, it can invade surrounding tissues and spread to other parts of the body.  


Melanoma is the most aggressive and dangerous type of lip cancer. It is caused by the abnormal growth of melanocytes, the cells that produce skin pigment. 

It typically appears as a dark or black growth on the lip. It can spread quickly to other parts of the body and is difficult to treat.

4. What Are the Treatment Options

There are three main types of treatment for cancer: surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Your doctor will recommend the best treatment plan for you based on the stage and location of your cancer, as well as your overall health.


This is the most common treatment for oral cancer. The goal of surgery is to remove the cancerous tumor and a margin of healthy tissue around it. It may be performed as a standalone treatment or in combination with radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as x-rays, to kill cancer cells. It is typically given after surgery to help prevent cancer from returning. It can also be used as a primary treatment option for patients who are not candidates for surgery.


This is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. It is typically given as an intravenous (IV) infusion but can also be given as a pill. Chemotherapy may be used as a standalone treatment or in combination with surgery or radiation therapy.

5. Symptoms

The first symptom of lip cancer is usually a lump or sore on the lip that does not heal. The lip may also feel numb or have a burning sensation. Other symptoms include white or red patches on the lip, bleeding, and a change in the shape of the lip. 

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor right away. Lip cancer is a rare type of cancer, but it’s important to catch it early.

6. The Causes

Lip cancer usually occurs on the lower lip and is most often caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds. Those who use tobacco products, either cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, are also at an increased risk, as are people who drink alcohol heavily.

It is more common in men than women and is most often diagnosed in people over the age of 50. People with fair skin, blonde or red hair, and blue or green eyes are at higher risk for lip cancer. 

7. Prevention

Lip cancer can be prevented in a few different ways. First, avoid exposure to UV light as much as possible. This means staying out of the sun, wearing sunscreen, and wearing protective clothing.

Second, quit tobacco use. This includes cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco. Quitting tobacco can be difficult, but it’s the best thing you can do for your health.

Third, drink alcohol in moderation. Alcohol can increase your risk of lip cancer, so it’s important to keep your consumption under control. 

Finally, visit a dentist near me regularly. They can identify precancerous changes in the mouth and provide treatment to prevent cancer from developing. Following these simple steps can help you reduce your risk of developing lip cancer.

Understanding Lip Cancer

If you or someone you know has any sort of abnormal growth on their lips, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Early detection is key when it comes to any type of cancer, and lip cancer is no different.

Be sure to keep an eye out for any of the following symptoms: a sore that doesn’t heal, a lump, a crust or scab, bleeding, or a change in color. If you notice any of these, make an appointment with your doctor right away.

Did you find this article about lip cancer helpful? If so, check out some of our other posts for more guides and helpful information.

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