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How to Protect Your Lips from Skin Cancer
August 15th, 2011 by Dr. Watson

On these beautiful, summer days in Jackson, it’s always great to be outside enjoying the sunshine. But there is an important part of your body that many people forget to protect while they are having fun: their lips. Dr. Watson wants to remind you how crucial this is and how you can do it.

Why You Should Protect Your Lips

The outer layer of your lips is much thinner than that of the rest of your skin. They also have almost no melanin, the pigment in skin that naturally helps screen out the harmful rays of the sun. This is why lips rarely tan, but easily burn.

Lips get a lot of sun exposure, being on your face and all, and are rarely covered. Prolonged sun damage on and around your lips leads to those fine lines and wrinkles that no one wants, as well as some more serious conditions.

The Big Deal with Sun Damage

An estimated 3,500 new cases of skin cancer on the lips are diagnosed every year and many others develop actinic cheilitis, also known as farmer’s lip or sailor’s lip. This condition forms after chronic sun exposure and is characterized by persistent dryness and cracking, leading to precancerous lesions and extensive wrinkling.

You May Actually Be Hurting Your Lips

When we are out in the Jackson sun, our lips naturally get dry and many people unconsciously lick them to add some moisture back. Some dermatologists feel that the saliva may act like a lens and intensify the sun exposure.

The same holds true for all of those shiny lip glosses. They do not help! In fact, they actually increase your cancer risk, by allowing more UV rays to penetrate the skin (like when people used to tan with baby oil). Unless your lip gloss has an SPF, it is probably harming you rather than helping.

What to Do

The best way to protect your lips is to use lip care products containing sunscreen. You should always apply 30 minutes before going into the sun, and reapply often while you are exposed. If you are headed for the pool or the beach, make sure to find a product that is water-repellant and to reapply as soon as you get out of the water.

Dr. Watson wants to make sure that all of his Jackson area patients are protected from the sun and from any type of cancer. If you have questions about any of this information, don’t be afraid to call us today!