If you notice white or white-and-red lesions inside your mouth, make sure to see a dentist immediately. Erythroleukoplakia, also known as speckled leukoplakia, is a precancerous condition that affects the oral cavity. Read on to learn more about it.

How common is erythroleukoplakia?

Thankfully, it affects less than 1% of people throughout the world, and the more serious form, erythroleukoplakia, is even less common. Men tend to be affected more often than women, and about 80% of patients are more than 40 years old. If you cut back on any smoking or drinking habits, you can lower your risk. If you still have questions about this condition, talk with your doctor or dentist.

What are the signs of erythroleukoplakia?

Erythroleukoplakia is a severe form of leukoplakia. Leukoplakia is characterized by frequently changing lesions on the oral soft tissues. At first, the lesions are either grey or grey-white with a soft, flat surface. Over time, the lesions become thick and lumpy, with a wart-like appearance.

Later, many circular or oval red patches will appear in and around the lesions. These white-and-red lesions are erythroleukoplakia. If you notice white or white-and-red lesions inside your mouth, make sure to tell a dentist, like Empire Dental, right away.

Is it serious?

Erythroleukoplakia is a precancerous condition. Over time, carcinomas may develop within the lesions. The risk of malignant transformation increases with the duration of the lesions, so the longer you let your lesions go untreated, the more dangerous they become.

By the time leukoplakia is diagnosed, most patients have had it for about 2.4 years. This is a concern because carcinomas generally occur 2 to 4 years after the first signs of white lesions inside the mouth. Getting prompt treatment is essential so that the lesions can be treated before they become cancerous.

How is it treated?

Erythroleukoplakia needs to be surgically removed. Your dentist will use either a scalpel or a laser to carefully cut away the lesions. A margin of healthy tissue will also be removed from around the lesions to make sure that every abnormal cell has been removed. This is done to help reduce the chance of recurrence. One study reported that 12% of people experience a recurrence after surgical removal, so your dentist will need to monitor your mouth for the development of new lesions. 

The excised tissue will then be biopsied to check for cancer cells. Not all erythroleukoplakias are cancerous, but due to the risk of malignant transformation, your dentist needs to examine the tissue.

If cancer cells are found, you may need to undergo additional treatments such as chemotherapy. This can be given in the form of a cream such as 5-flourouracil; you’ll need to apply this cream to the tissue around your removed lesions as directed. Medications such as beta-carotine and selenium may also be used.