Picture it…a beautiful summer day, settling into your cozy beach chair, sinking your feet into the Tahoe sand. You’ve slathered spf 50 from your forehead to your toes, but wait! Did you skip your lips!?!
Sunburnt lips are no laughing matter. Lips are often forgotten during our skin care and sun protection routines. We may remember to swipe a little lip balm or coconut oil on them when they feel dry, but how often do they get the sun protection that they deserve?
According the National Cancer Institute, skin cancer is always one of the most common cancers in the US. The lips are often an overlooked site for two most common skin cancers, basal and squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma can also occur on the lips, but occurs less frequently. Fair-skinned men over the age of 50, those who use tobacco and alcohol, as well as those with moderate sun exposure have the highest risk of developing cancer of the lip. It can happen to anyone at any age, so it’s important to take lip protection seriously.
Signs and Symptoms
- Dryness or cracking that doesn’t heal within 2 weeks
- Coloration changes – red, white, or dark patches
- Changes in texture of skin
- Soreness or bleeding
- Loss of definitive lip margin
- lumps, bumps, or ulceration
Ways to Decrease Risk of Developing Skin Cancer/Lip Cancer
- Do not use tobacco products (including vape)
- Limit alcohol consumption and use of alcohol-containing oral care products such as certain mouthwashes and breath sprays
- Wear a lip balm that contains an SPF (preferably one that doesn’t contain retinoids/retinol or vitamin A since some studies show these additives can increase cancer risk)
- Apply sunscreen to lips when applying it to face and neck. Reapply every hour or as needed.
The five year survival rate for lip cancers caught in the earliest stages is close to 80%. Annual skin checks with your dermatologist and seeing your dental hygienist and dentist for regular head and neck exams is very important. If you notice changes in your tissue or have concerns, don’t hesitate to get in for an exam sooner rather than later.