Leukoplakia is more common in people exposed to:
Leukoplakia is often seen on the lip or inside the cheeks or gums. Patches vary in size. Leukoplakia is usually benign (not cancer). On average, 4% to 5% of these patches develop into oral cancer. Patches in some areas of the mouth are more likely to be cancer:
People infected with HIV sometimes have a condition called oral hairy leukoplakia. It consists of hairy, painless white patches. Usually the patches are on the sides of the tongue. They can be one of the first signs of HIV infection.
People who use tobacco in any form are at much higher risk of both leukoplakia and oral cancer. Stopping the use of tobacco is a major way to prevent leukoplakia. Drinking alcohol also increases the risk of oral cancer. Risk is even greater if you use both alcohol and tobacco.
Another way to prevent leukoplakia is to avoid exposing your lips to the sun. You can protect your lips with sunscreen. Many types of lip balm include sunscreen.
If you have leukoplakia and you smoke or drink alcohol, the dentist will suggest that you stop. The dentist should look at the white patch again within two weeks for proper healing. If the patch persists, you should have a biopsy. For a large patch, small pieces will be removed from several sites. If the biopsy finds pre-cancerous or cancerous cells, the entire patch should be removed.
American Academy of General Dentistry
560 Lake St.
Chicago, IL 60611-6600
American Dental Association
211 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611-2678