How is leukoplakia treated?

The main goal of treating leukoplakia is to prevent it from becoming cancer. However, treatment is a challenge and results are often mixed. Treatment may remove the lesions, but a fair number of them return.

Medical management:

  • Stop using tobacco and alcohol.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Retinoids (vitamin A-based treatments used to treat acne and psoriasis) taken by mouth may help reduce lesions, but relapses and side effects are common.
  • Oral (by mouth) Vitamin A and beta-carotene supplements can help clear the white patches, but they will appear again once the person stops taking the supplements.
  • Isotretinoin supplements have been found to be more effective than beta-carotene in preventing cancerous changes.

Surgical management:

  • Removing lesions with surgery. However, there is still a 10% to 20% chance that the lesions will return, and a 3% to 12% chance of developing cancer in the treated areas.
  • Removal of lesions by laser.
  • Photodynamic therapy (use of light-activated cancer drugs).
  • Cryotherapy (use of freezing to remove lesions).
  • Electrocauterization (use of an electrically heated needle or other instrument to remove lesions).

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/05/2020.

References

  • Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. Leukoplakia. Accessed 8/4/2020.
  • World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer. A digital manual for the early diagnosis of oral neoplasia. Leukoplakia. Accessed 8/4/2020.
  • Canadian Cancer Society. Precancerous conditions of the mouth. Accessed 8/4/2020.
  • American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Leukoplakia. Accessed 8/4/2020.

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