Lip Skin Cancer, Summer 2014 Newsletter

With summer upon us, we all find it much easier to remember our daily sunscreen. Unfortunately, the lips are one area we frequently forget to “butter up.” Lips are chronically sun exposed and are one of the most common places we see skin cancers, including squamous cell carcinoma and even melanoma.

Actinic or solar cheilitis is a precancerous condition of the lips caused by chronic sun exposure. It is most commonly seen in fair-skinned, older individuals, males, and tobacco users. Our patients often come in describing chronically chapped lips, or pink, scaly patches that will not heal. Despite many treatment options, including liquid nitrogen, photodynamic therapy, topical medications and laser treatments, actinic cheilitis is very difficult to cure. If left untreated, it can evolve into squamous cell carcinoma, requiring extensive lip surgery.

Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, can also arise on the lips. Melanoma is a malignant tumor of melanocytes. Melanocytes produce the dark pigment, melanin, which is responsible for the color of skin. New or changing moles on the lip can be a sign of melanoma. Make sure to check your whole body, including your lips, for the ABCDEs of melanoma! A is for asymmetry, B is for border irregularity, C is for 3 or more colors, D is for diameter, and E is for evolving or change.

Both UVA and UVB sun exposure contribute to the development of skin cancers on the lips. Thus, prevention with zinc oxide based lip sunscreen this summer is essential. EltaMD® UV Lip Balm SPF 31 ($11) has 5% Hydromanil which will give your lips long term moisture. It also contains 5% zinc oxide which helps protect from UVA and UVB rays. Since it is fragrance-free, paraben-free, sensitivity-free, and noncomedogenic, it is save to use on adults with sensitive skin or children. SkinCeuticals Antioxidant Lip Repair ($40) will restore lips with moisture to smooth out cracked and dry lips. Colorescience® Sunforgettable lip shine SPF 35 ($26) is a lip shine with five different colors to choose from and will protect your lips from UV damage. It contains 5% zinc oxide and will give yours lips deep hydration. Since gloss can attract the sun more it is important to be able to look good while being safe!