Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer

Lip and oral cavity cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lips or mouth.

Most lip and oral cavity cancers start in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells that line the lips and oral cavity. Called squamous cell carcinomas, these cancers usually develop in areas of leukoplakia – white patches of cells that do not rub off. Lip and oral cavity cancer is a type of head and neck cancer.

The oral cavity includes the front two thirds of the tongue; the gums or gingiva; the lining of the inside of the cheeks called the buccal mucosa; the bottom of the mouth under the tongue; the hard palate or roof of the mouth; and the retromolar trigone, the small area behind the wisdom teeth.

The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program estimated 54,540 people will be diagnosed with cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx and 11,580 will die of these cancers in the United States in 2022.

These cancers are forms of head and neck cancer, which account for approximately 4 percent of all cancers in the United States, or about 66,920 of the estimated 1.9 million new cancer cases in 2022.

Tobacco and alcohol use can affect the risk of lip and oral cavity cancer. Being exposed to natural sunlight or artificial sunlight (such as from tanning beds) over long periods of time, and being male, are other risk factors for this disease.

Oral Cavity, Pharyngeal, and Laryngeal Cancer Prevention (PDQ®) Oral Cavity, Pharyngeal, and Laryngeal Cancer Screening (PDQ®) Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer Treatment (Adult) (PDQ®)

Source: National Cancer Institute