What causes oral malignant melanoma?

Updated: Jan 31, 2020
  • Author: Elizabeth Ann Bilodeau, DMD, MD, MSEd; Chief Editor: Jeff Burgess, DDS, MSD  more...
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The cause of oral melanoma or melanoma of any mucosal surface remains unknown, and the incidence has remained stable for more than 25 years. In contrast, cutaneous lesions are linked directly to fair-skinned and blue-eyed persons with a history of blistering sunburns, and the incidence has increased dramatically (approximately 4-6% per year) over the same period. Prognosis regarding the clinical behavior of the mucosal lesions has been extrapolated from knowledge of the cutaneous lesions. However, mucosal exposure to sunlight is unlikely, and, therefore, cutaneous melanoma and mucosal melanoma are different diseases.

The predilection for occurrence in the palate remains a mystery. No link has been established with denture wearing, chemical or physical trauma, or tobacco use. Melanocytic lesions, such as blue nevi, are more common on the palate. Oral blue nevi are not reported to undergo malignant transformation.

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