Solar cheilitis or cheilosis is a term used to describe benign or pre-malignant changes on the lip due to chronic sun exposure. It is also often called actinic cheilitis, and sometimes, actinic cheilitis with histological atypia.
The word “ cheilitis ” means an inflammatory condition of the lips. Solar cheilitis affects the vermilion, i.e. the red part of the lip.
Solar cheilitis most commonly results in the following features:
- Dry lips
- Thinned skin of the lips
- Scaly patches
Less common features of solar cheilitis include:
- Swelling of the lip
- Redness and soreness
- Ulceration and crusting
- Loss of demarcation between the vermilion border of the lip and its adjacent skin
- Prominent folds and lip lines
- White thickened patches (leukokeratosis)
- Discoloured skin with pale or yellow areas
Well-defined scaly areas on the lips in solar cheilitis may be solar keratoses or Bowen disease (squamous cell carcinoma in situ).
Invasive squamous cell carcinoma should be suspected if a persistent ulcer or lump develops.
Solar cheilitis is due to damage to cellular DNA by chronic sun exposure. Smoking may contribute; cheilitis tends to be more severe in smokers.
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