California woman says what looked like pimple above lip turned out to be skin cancer

ARCADIA, Calif. -- A California woman says what she thought looked like a pimple above her lip was actually skin cancer. She is sharing her story as a warning for others.

Most of us are pretty good about knowing that we should use sunscreen. But actually using it, and using it correctly, is another thing.

Doctors say they're seeing more and more cases of skin cancer on places we tend to miss: eyelids, lips, and the tops of our ears.

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Many women use foundation or tinted moisturizers with SPF in it, thinking that it offers adequate protection against sun damage, but don't swap out your sunscreen just yet.



But skipping the sunscreen can lead to a dangerous situation.

It's something Tracy French knows all about. She first noticed a small spot just above her lip.

"I would say it was roughly just under the size of a quarter," French said.

But it didn't raise any alarms with her.

French said, "It looked like a pimple then it would go away and then it would turn into a little scab and turn scaly. I kind of - for a little while - didn't think anything about it."

Dr. Shirley Chi, Tracy's dermatologist, says the spot was concerning.

"It did look like a pimple at first, but then eventually it turned into something a little bit harder. It had a little scale on it," Dr. Chi explained.

The diagnosis: skin cancer in the form of squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer.

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Researchers are concerned about a popular do it yourself trend: homemade sunscreen. Recipes and videos for DIY sunscreens are all over YouTube and social media. Doctors want to raise awareness about the potential dangers.



Dr. Chi says skin cancer rates continue to rise every single year with the deadliest form, melanoma, tripling over the last three to four decades.

"We think it's because people are living longer. But also because we're probably exposing ourselves to more sun damage in way of pollution, because pollution decreases the atmosphere and so we're getting more radiation that way," Chi said.

A recent study found most people who use moisturizers with sunscreens tend to avoid their eyes and lip area possibly because it's more greasy.

But researchers found those who use sunscreen alone were more likely to target those areas.

"If you're going to be out and you need sunscreen, then what I would recommend is a sport sunscreen or even a stick sunscreen that goes on like a deodorant stick, because that tends to run less," Chi said.

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Less than 15% of men and 30% of women use sunscreen regularly on their exposed skin when outside for more than an hour, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



And Dr. Chi also recommends using a lip balm that has sunscreen in it. Wear sunglasses and a hat whenever you go out, and keep some sunscreen in the car.

But the most important advice is to reapply your sunscreen frequently, every hour if you're gonna be outdoors. If you're with kids, make sure they do, too!

And if you have something that looks like a pimple that won't go away, ask your doctor to take a closer look.

"Come and see your dermatologist and get your whole body checked. Cause things can pop up, overnight," Tracy said.

Tracy is thrilled that doctors were able to eliminate all of her cancer. But shes hopes others won't wait years to get anything suspicious checked out.
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