What Is Actinic Cheilitis?
Actinic Cheilitis is exactly the same skin condition as Actinic Keratosis but it is simply the term referred to when there is a skin lesion that affects the lower lip. It can often be referred to as solar cheilitis, sailor's lip or farmer's lip, probably due to the chronic sun expsoure required to develop these skin growths.
Causes of Actinic Cheilitis
There are a few main causes, first and foremost is chronic overexposure to sunlight especially in the individual's early years. Smoking is another major cause, mainly due to the carcinogens in tobacco like arsenic. Continuous irritation to the lower lip from poorly fitting dentures will damage the delicate cells of the lip and cause tiny tumors to develop, as will the ongoing presence of harmful bacteria from a lack of oral hygeine.
What Does Actinic Cheilitis Look Like?
Everybody gets cracked lips once in a while so there is no need to become paranoid should you be reading this and think because you have a lip sore, you must have precancerous skin lesions! It's a condition you develop as you age; it is much more prevalent in older men although anyone with fair skin prone to sunburn is at risk.
It causes patches of pale discoloration and thickening of the skin just above the lip line (vermillion border). Where you would expect to see the outer red lip line, it may have become scaly and sore as in chapped lips, or as if you had bitten your lip. It is the failure of it to heal that is the giveaway, and should this happen, you shoud see your GP or dermatologist for a diagnosis.
Treatment is fairly straightforward and definetely recommended as it is a premalignant skin lesion that has a 10% chance of progressing into squamous cell cancer.
The methods of treatment are the same as those for squamous cell carcinoma and although some methods may cause some degree of pain, the outcome is positive.
Most common treatment methods are -
- Topical Chemotherapy - 5% Fluorouracil (5-FU) gel or cream. It is well documented that this can make your skin very sore until the end of treatment. However, I believe there is a newer topical skin treatment available now called Masoprocol, which is less of an irritant but may cause allergic dermatitis in a few people.
- Topical Immunomodulator - Imiquimod (IQ) is an modifying agent used for conditions involving an immune response. This treatment can cause a skin reaction in a minority of people.
- Electrodessication - The dehydrating of damaged tissue by an alternating high frequency electric current applied with an electrode. This treatment has a positive outcome and typically takes 3-4 weeks to heal.
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