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Docs Weigh In On Lip Gloss Cancer Theory

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, May 02, 2008 12:30 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Skin Cancer, Cancer, Cancer Protection, Drug Products, Sun Damage

Lip balm is recommended to avoid lip cancer.

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IMAGE SOURCE: WikiMedia Commons/ pouty lips/ author: Rachael Ashe

 

When in doubt wear sun protection on your lips even heavier than you would on your face and body.

That is the consensus among doctors talking to ABC News and other media outlets after a report this week that the use of some lip gloss, the non-SPF type, may promote cancer.

The problem is that lip gloss often does not contain a SPF (sun protection factor).  And just like baby oil that concentrates sun rays on unprotected skin, lip gloss may do the same.

  • Dr. Jessica Fewkes, a face cancer specialist at Harvard says “You might be able to infer that they both enhance UV exposure” she tells ABC. That means photoaging and wrinkles.
  • Dr. Kevin Cooper, dermatologist at Case Western Reserve says there could be a small intensification, what he calls “enhanced optical passage” of the sun’s rays with lip gloss. 
  • The American Cancer Society can’t refer to any evidence or population-based studies on lip gloss. Dr. Len Lichtenfeld says it seems “like just a theory.”
  • Talking to MSNBC, Dr. Bruce Robinson, a Manhattan dermatologist says that lips hydrated with lip gloss are like taking a magnifying glass to the lips, making it easier for UV rays to penetrate the lips.   “Instead of having to travel through that thicker layer, it's more condensed," Robinson says. "So the UV rays reach are reaching deeper layers of epidermis and dermis because you don't have this forcefield."
  • Dr. Christine Brown, a dermatologist at Baylor University talking to MSNBC recommends lip balm with an SPF of at least 30. Chapstick Ultra and Blistex Clear Advance lip balms that offer that protection. The ingredient found in lip protection is titanium dioxide, which acts as a physical sunblock.

In addition to cancer, a precancerous condition known as “farmer’s lip” but called actinic cheilitis can develop. Characterized by peeling, cracked and chapped lips, the condition can require expensive, uncomfortable laser treatments.

A SPF of at least 15 is usually recommended for the face.

Squamous cell carcinoma making up 90 percent of lip skin cancer each year, about 3,500 cases. It has a higher risk of spreading or metastasizing on the lips. 

A study entitled Solar Radiation, Lip Protection and Lip Cancer Risk, first raised the issue a decade ago.

It’s ultimately up to consumers to decide if shopping for lip gloss with a SPF factor of 15 or higher lip balm with a SPF protection of 30 is worth the investment in beauty and protection. #


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