The formation of white spots in the mucus membranes of the tongue and in the areas on inside of the mouth is a sign of a potential pre-cancerous condition medically known as leukoplakia; that is the onset of the condition often precedes oral cancer. However, many people who suffer from this condition do not get cancer, even though an individual in whom leukoplakia has developed stands at a greater risk of developing some form of cancer in the oral cavity. As a demographic group, men are much more likely to have the condition than are women-in addition, the men who tend to get leukoplakia are on an average middle-aged and or older adults; the condition is rare in young adults, men or women. Furthermore, people who smoke or use smokeless tobacco are at an increased risk from this condition when compared with other normal individuals. Another high risk group is the betel nut chewers of Asia-the habit is prevalent in large parts of south Asia. Another form of the condition called hairy leukoplakia has a great chance of occurring in people infected with HIV or Epstein-Barr virus; this form of the condition has to be treated through the use of an antiviral medication or drug. The form of the condition most likely to progress to cancer is the form known as proliferative verrucous leukoplakia. Some cases of leukoplakia could be because of the presence of an underlying genetic predisposition and may be inherited; thus hereditary factors could play a role in the onset of the disease.
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The appearance of a whitish patch on the gums, the inner areas of the cheek and the roof of the mouth or the tongue is an indication of leukoplakia in an individual-these areas can be checked for signs of the condition.
Compared to teetotalers, alcoholics and drinkers of alcoholic beverages may be more likely to develop the condition according to the evidence gathered in several preliminary studies-however, all studies of this nature did not suggest a connection between the consumption of alcohol and the chances of leukoplakia developing in an individual, nor did the risk for the disease increase. The reduction of consumed alcohol is a good thing nevertheless, and especially so if conditions such as leukoplakia is also fully developed in an individual-this is despite the fact that abstention from alcohol is does not necessarily improve the chances of having leukoplakia.
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An increases risk fro leukoplakia is also indicated by reports from a preliminary study that found that low dietary levels of essential substances like the vitamin C and many dietary fibers, the vitamin A and in some cases the deficiency of many other types of nutrients may all be responsible for the development of the condition in an individual. This results must be viewed with caution as the connection between the deficiency of any one of these and a risk of leukoplakia except in the case of the vitamin A, has still not been investigated in any scientific manner and further research is necessary to bring some light on the issue.
Additionally, some rare reports suggest that food allergies may possibly trigger some cases of leukoplakia in people. The diagnosis and advice of a health care professional must be taken to check for food allergies and its relation to leukoplakia, and this should be a priority for individuals with leukoplakia, who may also suffer from some sort of allergies to food.
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Leukoplakia has been mostly treated through the use of supplements of the compound called beta-carotene - this compound has been the universal treatment supplement in all patients. The efficacy of the compound and its ability to deal with leukoplakia has been demonstrated by its property of inducing remission from the condition-during a study conducted on a group of betel nut chewers suffering from leukoplakia, supplementation was done with 150,000 IU of beta-carotene two times a week for a treatment period lasting six months, this supplementation led to a significant hastening in the remission rate in such patients when they were compared with another group where a placebo was used; the remission rate for the first group on beta-carotene and the second placebo group were-14.8% vs. 3.0% respectively. This was further borne out in another double blind trail that utilized 100,000 IU of bet carotene per day for six months in patients suffering from leukoplakia. However, these results still have not been verified in all tests, another study showed that the use of supplements of beta carotene at 33, 333 IU of supplement a day per patient, when used alone or when used combined with 50 IU of vitamin E, did not significantly lead to a lowering of the incidence of leukoplakia in such patients. Smaller and similar trials have also shown identical results.
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Aside from the treatment methodologies using 50,000 IU of the drug per day during supplementation, the alternate use of a drug therapy utilizing a synthetic, prescription form of the vitamin A-known variously as Accutane, isotretinoin, and 13-cis retinoic acid is reputed to be much more effective and can bring around improvements faster. This must take in the fact that the use of large quantities of the Vitamin A may not be safe, and it is preferred in so far as possible that the treatment of leukoplakia must be done with beta-carotene as it is safe and produces no side effects in the patient.
The main treatment supplement for leukoplakia before the research on the benefits of beta-carotene was through supplements of vitamin A. The use of vitamin A has a lot of basis in research and at least a single report from a group of researchers suggest that the use of the vitamin A-at a dosage level of 28,500 IU a day was more effective in treating people with leukoplakia than comparable dosages of beta-carotene. Betel nut chewers who surfed from leukoplakia were tested during another trial where a combination of 150,000 IU a week of beta-carotene along with 100,000 IU a week of vitamin A were used as supplements-this led to significant increases in the remission rates in all test subjects especially when the results are compared to the use of beta-carotene alone. There are some precautionary steps to take-the use of more than 100,000 IU of vitamin A a week is not recommended in pregnant women or in those who could become pregnant soon; if such supplementation is unavoidable, medical supervision is necessary.
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In another study, where six out of eight patients with leukoplakia who were reviewed after clinical trials, at least partial to complete remission was seen after the use of a supplemental combination of beta-carotene along with the vitamin E. There is also a consensus that the greatest and strongest benefits were observed in those who stopped using tobacco and alcohol, and this was observed during another trial, where the patients were administered 50,000 IU of beta-carotene, accompanied by one gram of vitamin C, and 800 IU of vitamin E a day for a total of nine months-overall 56% of the people with leukoplakia were observed to have remissions from the condition. Additionally a combination supplement of vitamin A -at a dosage of 100,000 IU a week, along with beta-carotene-at about 67,000 IU a day, and also accompanied with vitamin E -at 80 IU a week were given to a group of men with leukoplakia. The results observed were a decrease of 38% in the incidence of leukoplakia following six months of treatment in all the men.
The use of vitamin E as a supplement by itself has not been thoroughly investigated as yet-this is important even though the use of the vitamin E along with beta-carotene has been proven in successful trials; in order to prove that the vitamin E is effective as a supplement alone, it must be used on patients with leukoplakia as a stand alone supplement in a careful clinical trial. This was done during a single trial that utilized vitamin E at dosage rates of 400 IU of vitamin E twice every day on patients with leukoplakia. The results observed in the test subjects following 24 weeks of supplementation were, 46% improvement in the signs or symptoms associated with leukoplakia and other related conditions-in addition about 21 % of the patients showed a miniscule sign of improvement from the symptoms associated with leukoplakia.
Another supplementation test carried out during a double-blind trial, utilized 3 grams of a mixture of whole green tea, along with green tea polyphenols, and some green tea pigments taken orally by patients with leukoplakia- in addition the test also utilized the mixture of the tea directly applied on to the lesions thrice a day for a total treatment period of six months. The lesions were observed to heal at a faster rate and significant improvement was seen in all patients who utilized the green tea.
The risk of leukoplakia appreciably increased if a person uses tobacco or any of its related products on a regular basis. Therefore in the light of this knowledge-all people suffering from any sign of leukoplakia must make sure to avoid all tobacco products and also moderate their consumption of alcohol and alcoholic beverages.
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