The skin on your lips is thinner than the skin on the rest of your body. This means your lips are more prone to the kind of sun damage that can cause skin cancer.
Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells. Cancer cells grow and divide and crowd out normal cells. Each kind of cancer behaves differently, grows at different rates and responds to different treatments.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It covers and protects your vital organs, protects you from germs, helps control body temperature and prevents the loss of fluids. Your skin has three layers: the epidermis, the dermis and the subcutis. Basal cells form the bottom layer of the epidermis. Basal cells divide into squamous cells that make keratin that protects your body. Melanoma cells make the pigment melanin, which protects you from the harmful effects of the sun. Melanin is also responsible for allowing your skin to tan. Skin cancer can form in any of these three types of cells.
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that begins in the pigment cells. Melanoma is more common on the trunk of the body. Moles are a non-cancerous type of melanoma. A mole can become cancerous from sun exposure or other irritation. Melanoma can almost always be cured in its early stages. It is likely to spread if not caught early. Melanoma is not as common as other types of skin cancer, but it is more serious.
Basal cell cancer occurs in areas exposed to the sun. This cancer is not likely to spread to other organs. It can, however, spread to nearby areas or bones. Basal cell cancers can be removed by a doctor. Even after removal, the cancer can reoccur in the same spot. According to the American Cancer Society, as many as half the people who remove basal cancer cells will get new skin cancer within five years.
Squamous cell cancer is more likely than basal cell cancer to spread into the fatty tissue beneath the skin, as well as to the lymph lodes and to other organs. This cancer is also caused by exposure to the sun and is especially common on the lips. These cancers can be removed if treated early.
Notify your doctor if you have sores that do not heal, if your lips thicken, if you experience numbness, pain or bleeding in your lips or have a mole on or near your lip that changes color, size or shape.
Always wear sunscreen on all exposed areas of skin. Use a lip balm with sunscreen daily. Avoid shiny lip gloss, as these focus the UV rays and increase your exposure. Reapply sunscreen and lip balm every 20 - 30 minutes when you are exposed to the sun.