Actinic cheilitis is a disorder that is indicative of development of cancer. It causes inflammation and swelling of lips and this disease is similar to that of actinic keratosis which is marked by skin rash caused by exposure to sunlight. This condition is also called as “farmer’s lips” or “sailor’s lips”. This disorder is marked by dryness of lips and cracked lips.
Actinic cheilitis also known as actinic cheilosis affects the lower lip very often. Individuals with this disorder will complain of dryness and cracked lips caused by exposure to sun. Initially the lower lips will show clear difference in color of the lips which begins to fade from its original red color. Crusty bumps or lesions are formed on the lips which are painless. The lips will become hard and gets deposited by scaly patches of dry skin. The lips are bordered by dull white color and even if some of the lesions disappear fresh ones are formed. The lips become white and pale with constant dryness and irritation. All the above symptoms are sign of malignant cancer.
The major cause of actinic cheilitis is exposure to harsh sunlight. The change in lip color and formation of crusty bumps is due to persistent exposure to sun. The powerful ultra violet rays of the sun will repeatedly damage the keratin pigment on the skin causing cancerous bumps.
It can also occur due to long-term use of tobacco (in any form), poor oral hygiene and wearing ill fitting dentures. People who are in the habit of using harsh lip balms can develop dryness in lips due to allergic reactions. However the major cause is attributed to chronic exposure to sunlight.
Who are at risk?
Fair skinned people, people who are old (above 50) and those who are constantly exposing their body to sunlight are in the risk of developing actinic cheilitis.
Your doctor will look for the above symptoms and collect your medical history regarding tobacco consumption. Actinic cheilitis can be diagnosed by the presence of crusty bumps with discolored (white or pale) border on the lower lip. He will gather information regarding the period of exposure to sunlight.
He may do a biopsy by taking small tissue from the lips for testing in the laboratory to check for the presence of squamous cells that cause cancer. It is necessary to treat all the lesions or bumps properly since the doctor cannot predict which lesions/bumps will turn into cancerous cells. This disorder has a major risk of developing into cancer. About 10-20% of individuals with actinic cheilitis will develop cancer on the lips since the above symptoms are indicative of precancerous condition.
Various treatment methods are available for actinic cheilitis depending on the intensity of the problem and size of the lesions developed on the lips. Medications can be prescribed for destroying the lesions and therapy methods like cryosurgery, electro-surgery and other invasive procedures can be useful.
Topical creams that contain 5 Fluorouracil is effective for destroying the lesions since it can penetrate deep into the skin layers and acting on crusty bumps. It will act on the premalignant cells and destroy them before they could develop into squamous cells. Based on the intensity of the symptoms, your doctor will direct you to use the ointment for at least 3-4 weeks. This medicine is effective in more than 50% of the people with actinic cheilitis.
Side effects of 5 Fl is minimal causing scarring of lips, burning or inflammation of lips and exudation. Immune stimulator like imiquimod can be used for completely clearing the lesions from the lips. It will act on the caner causing cells destroying them instantly. This stimulator triggers modification in the immune system process in which T lymphocytes has a major role in destruction of tumor cells.
Some of the invasive procedures for treating lesions of actinic cheilitis are given below :-
Scalpel Vermillionectomy :
The vermillion corners of the lesions are removed by scalpel without causing any damage to the muscle below. It may cause scarring of lips which can be managed by repeated massage.
Chemex Foliation :
A special formula containing Tri chloro aceticacid is applied on the affected lips which will eventually cause peeling of lips along with lesions. In due course, new skin layer is formed on the lip without any cancer causing lesions. But one needs to protect the lips carefully from exposure to sunlight until new layer of skin develops.
Controlled electric current is applied on the swollen lips for destroying the malignant lesions. But this technique may affect the adjacent tissues which will eventually heal after some days. This process can be done in the doctor’s office by giving local anesthesia for numbing the lips.
In this procedure, liquid nitrogen is applied on the blisters which will freeze the lesions to shrink them.
Pictures of Actinic Cheilitis :
Images, Pics, Pictures and Photos of Actinic Cheilitis
Limit your exposure to sun. If you need to go out, you should wear protective lip balms and SPF lotion on your face and lips. People who are fair complexioned need to be very careful while taking sunbaths in beach. Even the cloudy weather can cause powerful penetration of UV rays into the skin.