Office News |6 min read

Cover Those Lips! How To Protect Against Skin Cancer

We’ve all heard the tips to cover up, wear sunscreen, and stay out of the sun.

But why does it matter?


Why should your dentist care?


Those tips help protect you from skin cancer—something even your dentist screens you for.

Yes, they do!

And we’re here to talk about skin cancer and how your dentist plays a part in screening you.


Educating yourself about the risks, types, and ways to prevent cancer from being a big problem could save your life.

Let’s start with the risks: Are you at risk?

Who gets skin cancer and why?


Anyone can get skin cancer. Your level of sun exposure puts you at the most significant risk of developing skin cancers.

Other factors, such as heredity and environmental hazards, also affect your risk. Identifying your risk factors is a start in reducing your chances of getting skin cancer.

These are a few increased risk factors:

  • Fair skin or light-colored eyes
  • Having many large, irregularly shaped moles
  • A family history of skin cancer
  • Repeated excessive sun exposure

There are many more risk factors for skin cancer. Make sure you talk to your healthcare provider for more information.

Did you know your dentist screens you for skin cancers during your exam?


Your dentist and hygienist will look for signs of skin cancer around your mouth and lips.

This means:

They’re looking at beauty marks, lips, and areas around your face and jaw to ensure the skin is healthy and normal.

Image of a lip with abnormal skin changes.

Click the image to see more pictures related to skin cancer.

Abnormalities could be warning signs of skin cancer

Skin cancers often start as changes to your skin.

These can show up as new growths or differences in patches of your skin from its normal appearance.


Many people associate moles with skin cancer.

But remember:

Not every change in a mole or your skin’s appearance is cancer.

It just increases the potential to become cancer over time.

Don’t worry just yet:

Skin cancer can be cured—if it’s found and treated early.

You should:

Learn to spot changes in your skin and other early warning signs of skin cancer.

And definitely:

Go to all your screenings and exams—it’s essential to keep you healthy during your lifetime.

So you see:

Maintaining your smile is vital for keeping your teeth healthy and preventing more significant problems later.

Do you need a dental exam and screening in Seattle, WA?

At Smile Ballard, we offer top-quality dentistry services. Book your next cleaning and oral health screening appointment with our warm and friendly team.

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When is a mole a problem?

Part of your smile may be the iconic “beauty mark” near your lips.

This dark spot or mole on your face is attractive but needs to be assessed for changes regularly.


Your dentist will keep notes on areas like these.

They’ll discuss any changes with you and their recommendations for what you should do.


Very few moles become cancer.


Abnormal or atypical moles can develop into melanoma over time.

So when a mole changes size, shape, color, or falls in one of these categories, it definitely needs to be evaluated by your healthcare provider:

  • Has irregular edges
  • Is more than one color
  • Is asymmetrical
  • Itches, oozes, or bleeds


Moles that have changed into skin cancer are often irregularly shaped, contain many colors, and are larger than a pencil eraser.

One more thing:

Your dentist and hygienist also look for other skin abnormalities around your face.

Since you’re wondering what changes are abnormal, let’s discuss more about skin cancer types.

Four common types of skin cancer

Here’s some information about four common types of skin cancer and the changes in your skin to look for.

Actinic cheilitis (AKA farmer’s lip)

Actinic cheilitis is a precancerous condition that usually appears on the lower lips.

It tends to look like scaly patches or roughness of the lips. Sometimes, your lip could swell and lose definition around the edges.

If not treated, actinic cheilitis may evolve into invasive squamous cell carcinoma.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common and easiest-to-treat skin cancer.

It occurs mainly in adults and spreads slowly.

Basal cell tumors can take on many forms and in many places.

They can show up often as:

A pearly, white, or waxy bump near blood vessels on the ears, neck, or face.


A flat, scaly, flesh-colored, or brown patch on the back or chest.

Tumors can also appear (more rarely) as a white, waxy scar.

Squamous cell carcinoma

As a nonmelanoma skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma is curable if caught and treated early.

It can appear in several ways:

  • A firm, red nodule (bump)
  • A scaly growth that’s crusty or bleeds
  • A sore that won’t heal

Common places of squamous cell carcinoma are the nose, forehead, ears, lower lip, hands, and other sun-exposed body areas.


Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. It’s not as common, but it has the most potential for being deadly.

Here are possible signs of melanoma:

A change in the appearance of a mole or pigmented area.

Consult your doctor if a mole you have changes in any way.


Not every change in your skin’s appearance is precancerous.


You should always tell your doctor about any changes you notice in your skin.


You should learn what you can do to reduce your risk.

Three ways to reduce your risk of skin cancer

Protect yourself by:

1. Limit your exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

2. Wear a hat and sunglasses, and cover up with clothing.

3. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher outdoors

Important reminders:

Don’t forget your forehead, lips, and ears when applying sunscreen!

If you notice changes to your skin, discuss them with your doctor right away.


Regular screenings and exams are an excellent way to detect skin cancer’s early warning signs.

Don’t forget:

This includes seeing your dentist regularly, too!

Are you looking to book your next dental exam in Seattle, WA?

Our dental practice in Seattle, WA, offers thorough treatments, gentle care, and a dedicated, caring team for your oral health care.

Our doctors and hygienists check for signs of skin cancer around your lips and mouth during every exam.


To make sure we provide you with a first-rate experience and the highest quality dental care. You’ll feel confident about your smile and overall health with us.

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Or contact us via one of these convenient means:

Our dental office is located in Ballard, WA… This text opens a new tab to our Google page…, and serves communities across Seattle, including Greenwood, Queen Anne, West Seattle, Fremont, Northgate, and Shoreline.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2016 and has been completely revamped for comprehensiveness and timeliness.

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