Two conditions in the mouth -- leukoplakia and erythroplakia -- actually can be precursors to cancer. Often caused by smoking or chewing tobacco, these (initially) benign conditions can occur anywhere in the mouth. Only a biopsy can determine whether precancerous cells (dysplasia) or cancer cells are present in a leukoplakia or erythroplakia.
Leukoplakia - a condition characterized by a whitish patch that develops inside the mouth or throat.
Erythroplakia - a condition characterized by a red, raised patch that develops inside the mouth.
Treatment for leukoplakias or erythroplakias may include use of retinoids -- medications which are related to vitamin A -- to eliminate, reduce, and/or prevent dysplasia from forming.