You can get skin cancer on your lips. We don’t tend to think of our lips as a body part threatened by the big “C” but unfortunately you have to add it to the list. Think about just one bad sunburn you have had on your face; chances are that your lips got fried too. That tender, chapped feeling after a day on the boat or skiing is a sunburn. It causes serious damage to the cells on your lips, and dramatically increases your risk of developing a pre-cancer or cancer there.
At least one quarter of Americans never use any sort of lip protection or SPF. In fact, many of us may be making our exposure worse; shiny lip glosses or balms without SPF can magnifythe sun’s rays, and cause even more damage than would be if no lip cosmetic was used at all.
The most common type of skin cancer that develops on the lip is squamous cell carcinoma. This is a treatable form of skin cancer, but if left undetected can spread locally and even to lymph nodes and cause more distant damage. So what should you look for? A sore that doesn’t heal on your lip, painful or cracked lips that do not heal with emollients. Scaly, tender or bleeding spots or bumps on the lips are red flags also. If you have any of these symptoms, your next stop should be your Dermatologist’s office.
Luckily many of our favorite types or lips glosses, lipsticks and balms are starting to include some amount of SPF in them. For daily use look for something with at least SPF 15. Even more protection is found in certain ingredients. Badger Balm makes a zinc oxide lip balm. Zinc oxide is my favorite active ingredient for sunblocks. Vanicream Lip Protectant SPF 30 is good for my extra-sensitive-skin friends, however I will tell you that it does not rub in as well as other products;which I find annoying. Lipcotz spf 45 has zinc and titanium protection with a nice smell and a smooth texture.
So keep that pucker protected. Smiles work a lot better with those lips intact.