Avoiding Lip Cancer

During the summer, you’ll probably be taking advantage of the warm weather by spending a lot of time in the sun. You probably know that sun protection is important, but did you realize how vital it is in safeguarding yourself from oral cancer? The lips are often forgotten when people apply sunscreen, and Dr. James Fondriest would like you to know how important protecting your lips from lip cancer.

Sun damage doesn’t just cause flaky, chapped lips. Its harmful UV rays can also cause skin cancer. Lip cancer only makes up about 10% of all skin cancers and its numbers are declining, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. However, the lips are highly vascular, so lip cancer is three times more aggressive than other skin cancers.

If you think that regular lip balms can protect your lips from damage, think on this: shiny lip glosses only magnify the sun’s rays and enhance damage. And regular lip balm or lipstick does not contain sunscreen. Wear a lip balm or gloss with an SPF of 30 or higher, or layer your lip gloss or lipstick over a lip balm containing sunscreen. Men and women are equally susceptible to sun damage, although men over 40 who work outside are more likely to develop lip cancer.

It is important to be aware of the symptoms of lip cancer in case your lips are damaged by the sun. Lip cancer can be easily confused with a cold sore. The National Cancer Institute offers some key signs of lip cancer:

  • A sore on the lip or in the mouth that doesn’t heal.
  • A lump on or thickening of the lips.
  • Pain, bleeding, or numbness on the lips or in the mouth.

While those symptoms don’t necessarily indicate lip cancer, you should report any unusual changes in your lips or mouth to your dentist or physician. Dr. Fondriest can check your mouth for signs of oral cancer during a routine dental exam.

Remember: Covering a few extra inches of skin with sun protection could end up saving your smile and your life!

Dr. Fondriest is dedicated to the health and beauty of his patients. He offers general, preventive, and cosmetic dental procedures. Call us for your appointment today!