Next month is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so this post makes a good segue from our April series to the May series: Fact & Fiction about Skin Cancer. We’ll go more in depth on many related topics next month, but today we’ll quickly touch on the most common misconceptions about this disease.
Fiction: It’s just skin cancer.
Fact: Skin cancer is often somewhat ignored because most cases are treatable and the survival rate, statistically speaking, is better than that of other cancers such as breast cancer or lung cancer. It should still, however, be taken seriously because it can be disfiguring or deadly (one person dies of melanoma per hour in the U.S.). Also, skin cancer diagnosis and death rates have been rising over the past several decades.
Fiction: Only Caucasians get skin cancer.
Fact: This is another dangerous belief. Light-skinned individuals are more likely to follow Sun Safe practices (sunscreen, seeking shade, having regular skin checks, etc) than people of color because darker skinned individuals mistakenly believe that they are immune. While people of color may be less likely to get skin cancer, the skin cancers that they do get are often more advanced and aggressive. Everyone should protect their skin from UV rays and regularly check their skin (especially self-exams) for any suspicious or irregular spots.
Fiction: I only need sunscreen if I’m going to be outside for a while on a sunny day
Fact: Sunscreen should be worn every day all year round. Sun exposure and UV damage are cumulative. Even if you do not burn on a typical day, UV exposure is still reaching you through windows (in cars, office buildings, houses, airplanes, anywhere), as you walk into/out of buildings, when you unexpectedly stop outdoors to take a phone call or speak to a friend outside a café, and more. Also, clouds do not necessarily mean that there is no risk of sun damage. Up to 80% of the sun’s rays can get through clouds.
Fiction: Tanning beds are a safe way to get a tan
Fact: Tanning bed use greatly increases a person’s risk of getting skin cancer. Some figures point to up to 8 times more likely! Tanning beds use high amounts of UVA rays. As UVB is primarily the type that burns, people mistakenly believe that tanning beds must be safer than tanning outside, but UVA rays can also cause skin cancer and tanning beds may emit up to 12 times as many rays as the sun! The only safe tan is in a bottle. There are much better choices these days for spray tans and lotions that can help you get a bronzed-skin look without looking orange and without risking cancer.
For More Information:
Skin Cancer Foundation http://www.skincancer.org/
Melanoma Research Foundation http://www.melanoma.org/
American Academy of Dermatology https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer