Actinic cheilitis, sometimes referred to as "farmer's lip" or "sailor's lip," may be a precancerous condition associated with cumulative lifetime sun exposure. The lower lip is most often affected. Individuals with actinic cheilitis often complain of persistent dryness and cracking of the lips. They will frequently exhibit other effects of sun-damaged skin, like precancerous lesions on the skin called actinic keratoses and extensive wrinkling.
A certain sort of carcinoma (squamous cell carcinoma) develops in 6–10% of cases of actinic cheilitis.
Who's at risk?
Actinic cheilitis is significantly more common in men, the elderly, and fair-skinned individuals. There is also a strong association with tobacco use.
Signs and Symptoms
Actinic cheilitis is found on the lips, most frequently the lower lip. Persistent redness, scaliness, and chapping are among the symptoms noted. Erosions and cracks (fissures) may be present as well.
Prevention is very important. Wearing barrier clothing (eg, wide-brimmed hats) and sunscreen-containing lip balms can aid in preventing actinic cheilitis.
When to Seek Medical Care
Seek the evaluation of a medical care provider or dermatologist when persistent scaling of the lips is noted. A biopsy of the lip may be needed to rule out squamous cell carcinoma.
Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe
In severe cases without evidence of malignancy, a lip shave procedure (vermilionectomy) could also be performed. In less extreme cases, your physician may recommend destruction (ablation) of the damaged cells with a CO2 (CO2) laser.
Alternative treatments include the utilization of electrical current to destroy the precancerous cells (electrodesiccation) and a facial sanding technique (dermabrasion). Topical therapy with a chemotherapeutic agent (fluorouracil) or a topical immunomodulator (imiquimod) could also be prescribed.
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