Understanding Lower Lip Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options

Malignant Tumor of Lower Lip

Lower Lip Cancer

In the photograph, the patient who has been present in the lower lip for one year and has a growing wound-shaped lesion, has a tumoral lesion on the lower lip (photo on the left) and the condition on the 14th postoperative day (photo on the right). The pathology result was squamous cell carcinoma (squamous cell carcinoma).

Lower lip cancer is a type of oral cancer that affects the tissue of the lower lip. While it may not be as commonly discussed as other forms of cancer, it's essential to understand its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.Lower lip cancer is more common than upper lip cancer and the disease is usually slower than upper lip cancer. It is also the most frequent malignant neoplasm of the oral cavity. It usually occurs between 50-70 years of age and in males. Lesions are usually painless, non-healing, ulcerative areas. Under the jaws, the lymph nodes are usually the first bled lymph nodes of the tumor.

What is Lower Lip Cancer?

Lower lip cancer, also known as lower lip carcinoma, is a malignancy that develops in the cells of the lower lip. It typically originates in the thin, flat cells called squamous cells, which line the lips and oral cavity. Lower lip cancer is a subset of oral cancer, which includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, and gums.

Causes and Risk Factors

Risk factors for lower lip cancer: Tobacco use, pipe smoking, thermal injury, poor oral hygiene, contact with mechanical irritant, immunosuppression (immune system immunization), UV light (sun rays also show carcinogenic effects), diet deprived of antioxidant food.

Several factors can contribute to the development of lower lip cancer, including:
  • Prolonged sun exposure: Chronic exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is a significant risk factor for lower lip cancer. This is particularly true for individuals with fair skin or those who work outdoors for extended periods.
  • Tobacco use: Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, as well as chewing tobacco, increases the risk of developing lower lip cancer. The carcinogenic substances in tobacco can damage the cells of the lips and oral cavity over time.
  • Alcohol consumption: Heavy alcohol consumption, especially when combined with tobacco use, can further elevate the risk of oral cancers, including lower lip cancer.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection: Certain strains of HPV, particularly HPV-16 and HPV-18, have been linked to an increased risk of oral cancers, although their specific role in lower lip cancer is less clear.
  • Age and gender: Lower lip cancer is more common in older adults, particularly those over the age of 45. Additionally, men are at higher risk than women.
  • Genetic predisposition: Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing oral cancers, including lower lip cancer.

Symptoms of Lower Lip Cancer

Recognizing the early signs and symptoms of lower lip cancer is crucial for prompt diagnosis and treatment. Common symptoms may include:
  • Persistent sore or lump on the lower lip that does not heal
  • Red or white patches on the lips
  • Thickening or roughening of the lip tissue
  • Unexplained bleeding or numbness in the lips
  • Difficulty moving the lips or jaw
  • Swelling or enlargement of lymph nodes in the neck


Diagnosing lower lip cancer typically involves a combination of physical examination, medical history review, and diagnostic tests. The following steps may be involved in the diagnostic process:
Physical examination: A healthcare provider will examine the lips and oral cavity for any signs of abnormalities, such as lumps, lesions, or discoloration.

Biopsy: If suspicious lesions are identified, a biopsy may be performed to remove a small sample of tissue from the affected area. The tissue sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis to determine if cancer cells are present.

Imaging tests: In some cases, imaging tests such as CT scans, MRI scans, or PET scans may be used to assess the extent of the cancer and whether it has spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes.

Treatment Options

The choice of treatment for lower lip cancer depends on several factors, including the stage of the cancer, the patient's overall health, and personal preferences. Treatment options may include:
Surgery: Surgical removal of the cancerous tissue is often the primary treatment for lower lip cancer. Depending on the size and location of the tumor, the surgeon may perform a wide local excision to remove the tumor while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible. In some cases, a partial or total lip reconstruction may be necessary to restore function and appearance. Treatments for lip cancers include resection of a 2 cm intact surgical margin and removal of lymph nodes with the possibility of tumor spread. Local excision of basal cell carcinoma, which is the other lip cancers, is sufficient, while surgery on the neck and under the chin is planned in squamous cell carcinoma (supra-omohyoid neck dissection).

Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and destroy cancer cells. It may be used as a primary treatment for early-stage lower lip cancer or in combination with surgery for more advanced cases.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves the use of powerful drugs to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. It may be used in combination with surgery and radiation therapy for advanced or metastatic lower lip cancer.

Prognosis and Survival Rates

The prognosis for lower lip cancer depends on various factors, including the stage of the cancer, the patient's overall health, and the effectiveness of treatment. When detected early and treated promptly, the prognosis for lower lip cancer is generally favorable, with high cure rates. However, if the cancer has spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes, the prognosis may be less favorable, and the risk of recurrence or metastasis may be higher.


While it may not be possible to prevent lower lip cancer entirely, there are steps individuals can take to reduce their risk:
  • Limit sun exposure: Protect the lips from prolonged sun exposure by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, using sunscreen lip balm, and seeking shade during peak UV hours.
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol: Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol consumption can significantly reduce the risk of developing oral cancers, including lower lip cancer.
  • Practice good oral hygiene: Maintain good oral hygiene habits, including regular brushing and flossing, and schedule routine dental check-ups to detect any oral abnormalities early.
Lower lip cancer is a type of oral cancer that requires prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment for the best possible outcomes. By understanding the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for lower lip cancer, individuals can take proactive steps to protect their oral health and reduce their risk of developing this potentially serious condition. If you have any concerns about your oral health or notice any unusual changes in your lips, consult a healthcare professional for evaluation and guidance.

You can find more detailed information about lip cancer >> Link group where you can read the articles I have previously prepared about lip cancer and published on this website >> https://www.ent-istanbul.com/search?q=lip+cancer

Similar link >> Lower Lip Mucocele

Source Web Sites: Lip Cancer: Not Uncommon, Often OverlookedSurgical management of lip cancer - NCBI

Murat Enoz, MD, Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgeon - ENT Doctor in Istanbul

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