That stubborn thing on your upper lip may not be a pimple at all, but might be cancer if it’s been hanging there for a while.
The good news is that the top of your lips are not only extremely easy to inspect, but are typically viewed at least a few times a day.
So it would be hard – or should be hard – for a cancerous nodule to form without you knowing that something is growing there.
“Although not common, pimples can form on top of the lip and anywhere where there are sebaceous glands and skin,” says Dr. Tess Mauricio, MD, FAAD, a leading board certified dermatologist from Stanford University Medical School and CEO of MBeautyClinic.com.
Dr. Mauricio adds, “There are other diagnoses to consider when evaluating a pimple on the lip including cold sore, herpes, mole, benign epidermoid cyst, sebaceous hyperplasia.”
A new spot on the upper lip (or anywhere) is more likely to be a benign mole in teenagers than in adults over 30.
A mole will take a long time to get noticeably bigger, while a true pimple will seemingly come out of nowhere. A cold sore, too, will develop rapidly.
But a skin cancer such as melanoma or basal cell carcinoma will one day become visible as a very tiny spot (unless you rarely look at your lips and thus miss the early development of the tumor), and over time it will grow in size and may change in color.
A melanoma will have noticeable changes over weeks or months, while a basal cell carcinoma will appear the same over a longer period of time before changing enough to be noticed.
Bump or Pimple on Upper Lip Won’t Go Away
If the bump or pimple like spot on the lip doesn’t go away, it is not a pimple or cold sore and needs an examination by a dermatologist. A common blemish should be gone within two weeks.
Teens are not immune to melanoma, though melanoma in teens is extremely rare.
The number of newly diagnosed U.S. cases of melanoma in 2018 is projected to be over 91,000, yet only 0.4 percent will be in people under age 20. That means in 2018, about 364 new melanoma patients will be under 20.
Basal cell carcinoma, like melanoma, can resemble a pimple and form on top of the lip. The average age of basal cell carcinoma diagnosis is 70.
This slow-growing cancer is extremely, extremely rare in teens, and almost never spreads to other parts of the body.
Dr. Mauricio is an internationally recognized cosmetic surgeon and the youngest woman to hold the position of President of The San Diego Society for Dermatologic Surgery.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.