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Dry, chapped lips? It could be cancer!

by , 13 April 2015

I'll admit it: I'm a lip ice addict. Ask my colleagues, friends or family and they'll tell you I never go anywhere without my lip ice close by.

Now I've never really thought too much about this. But the other day, I came across an article that scared me half to death.

It explained that suffering from dry lips, scaly patches or persistent roughness of the lips is one of the key symptoms of a precancerous condition known as actinic cheilitis.

If you too can't go anywhere without your lip ice, I drop everything and read this now.


What is actinic cheilitis?

As WebMD explains: “Actinic cheilitis is a precancerous condition that usually appears on the lower lips.” It’s dangerous because, if you don’t treat – or worse recognise – it in time, it often evolves into invasive squamous cell carcinoma, one of the major types of skin cancer.
And here’s the thing: Since symptoms resemble the dry, chapped lips you suffer from in winter, it’s one of the most overlooked forms of the disease! 
But if you enjoy spending time drinking and relaxing in the sun with your friends on weekends, you stand a one in ten chance of getting. Especially on your lower lip, reveals the Australian Dental Journal. 
So how can you tell if your chronically dry lips are something you should worry about?
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Five warning signs your dry lips could be skin cancer 

#1: Your lips are red and irritated: 
As I mentioned, a major early sign is an irritated area that looks like chapped lips. If you smoke, drink alcohol, use mouthwash containing alcohol or love sitting in the sun for prolonged periods of time, watch any irritated area on your lower lips carefully for these other signs.
#2: Lip sores just won’t heal: 
If you get a sore on your lips (like a Fever Blister), it should heal within 14 days. If it doesn’t, take note and go to your dermatologist. 
Also schedule a visit if your sore is numb, bleeds easily or often or appears as a crusty patch on your life. 
#3: Your lips are lumpy and thick: 
You know how, when you’ve bitten your lip it swells and forms a bulge? Well if a lip lump lasts longer than two weeks, don’t ignore it. Lip cancers often take this form. 
#4: Your lips are sore, numb or tingly:
Pain is NEVER a good sign. So if your lips are sore or numb and you can’t see any of the visual signs we’ve discussed, don’t ignore it. Pain (and swelling) is a serious indication that your problem may be spreading – into your jaw, gums, tongue, etc. And unlike early stage lip cancer (which can be eradicated with a chemical peal, lip shave or topical cream), treating these involves invasive measures. 
#5: You’ve lost definition between the border of the lip and the surrounding skin: 
If you no longer have a lip line, it could indicate actinic cheilitis.
Bottom line: Get to know your body. If, like me, you’ve always suffered from dry lips, it might not be anything to worry about. But when you start to notice something different, it’s ALWAYS better to be safe than sorry.  

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