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Keeping your lips healthy is important year-round. We often take our lips for granted even though they play a crucial role in our speech and for identifying different types of food.
Lip cancer is a malignant tumor, or neoplasm, that originates in the surface layer cells in the upper or lower lip. Nine out of ten cases of lip cancer are diagnosed in people over age 45. As the cells in our lips get older, they lose some of its ability to repair itself. This breakdown in the repair system combined with damaging UV rays from sunlight allows for the uncontrolled growth of cells.
If a part of the lip is affected by cancer and must be removed by surgery, there will be significant changes to one’s eating ability and speech function. Men are at a greater risk for lip cancer than women, sometimes two to three times more likely. Also, fair-skinned people are more likely to develop lip cancer than those with dark skin.
Here are some tips for keeping your lips healthy, soft, and sun safe.
Use Lip Balm to Moisturize and Protect
Since your lips are exposed to the sun every day, they are highly susceptible to disfiguring and to developing skin cancer. Use lip balm or lipstick with a SPF 15 or higher. Keep in mind that your lower lip receives the most direct sunlight.
Much like sunscreen use recommendations, remember to reapply lip protection every two hours. Reapply more often if you have been eating or drinking.
Unlike the rest of your skin, lips do not contain oil glands and therefore tend to dry out and become chapped easily. Drink lots of water to hydrate your lips and avoiding licking them, which actually saps moisture.
For years, many have expressed privacy concerns over the use of body scanners at airports. However, the technology that peeks underneath our clothing has great potential for looking underneath our skin to diagnose cancer at the earliest and most treatable stages.
X-ray vs. T-rays
The most common types of airport body scanners either use X-ray or Terahertz rays (T-rays). In late 2012, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) quietly began removing X-ray based body scanners and replacing them with Terahertz based ones. Terahertz scanners, or millimeter-wave scanners, are non-ionizing and much safer than X-rays.
T-rays have the ability to look through human skin and tissue. Since it is non-ionizing, T-rays do not have enough energy to remove electrons from molecules, which means they won’t mutate our cells. Therefore, they can be harmlessly focused into our body to capture biochemical signatures of events like the start of cancer.
"We can take an image of the suspected area on the skin surface and under the skin surface at different depths to see if there is anything that looks totally different under the normal tissue," explains Dr. Anis Rahman, the chief technology officer of Applied Research and Photonics.
Detecting Malignant Melanoma
Although much more research needs to be done, T-rays show a lot of promise. The technology may be especially helpful in detecting early stages of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of cancer that starts in the deepest part of the outer layer of the skin that occurs long before people can see mole symptoms on the visible part of the skin.
Over 76,500 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2013 in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.