Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. It's also one of the most preventable, but many people believe myths about it that can lead them to make poor choices when it comes to sun exposure and protection.
Many things in our daily life contribute to increasing the risk of skin cancer, sometimes without us knowing it. Because of how common these activities are, most people don’t usually think about their risk factors.
We want everyone to know what they're up against and how they can protect themselves from this deadly form of cancer. So here are our top ten myths about skin cancer and how you can protect your skin:
Myth #1: Skin cancer is caused exclusively through sun exposure
Many people believe that you can only get skin cancer with excessive sun exposure. That’s definitely not the only way! While it’s true that it’s a primary factor, there are other things to consider where you can potentially get skin cancer.
Some things to consider that increase the risk of skin cancer are:
- Weak immune system
Myth #2: The higher SPF your sunscreen has, the better
The higher the SPF, the better. Not true!
SPF only measures how much UV rays it absorbs or reflects away. It doesn't protect you from all UVA rays, which are just as damaging as UVB radiation. Re-application, ideally every two hours, is needed throughout the day—even if your sunscreen feels like it's working.
Myth #3: There's no need for sunscreen when it's a cloudy day
When it’s cloudy, the sun's rays can still reach you. But don't worry! The UV index (a measure of UV radiation intensity) is still important even if you're in cloudy weather.
The UV index is higher during the summer months and at high altitudes, so if you're going to be outdoors for a few hours or need to stay up late working on your laptop at home, sunscreen should always be applied beforehand.
Myth #4: Skin cancer is not deadly
Probably the most important myth that needs to be debunked is that skin cancer is not deadly. Skin cancer kills about 2,000 people each year in Australia, with melanoma being the most dangerous form of the disease. It can happen to anyone regardless of age or gender and affects so many Australians each year.
While it's true that most people diagnosed with skin cancer will survive their diagnosis and recover completely, it’s important to understand how severe this type of cancer can be so you know what steps you should take if you suspect you may have it.
Myth #5: Dark skinned people are not at risk for skin cancer
You may be surprised to learn that people of color are at a higher risk for skin cancer. This can be due to less sunlight exposure, which means they’re more likely to develop melanoma or another type of skin cancer.
The good news is that you can protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen on your face and body, limiting time spent outdoors during peak sun hours (10am-2pm), and seeking medical care if you notice any changes in your skin appearance or texture.
Myth #6: If you’re inside all the time, you’re not at risk
This myth is a classic example of the "it's not what you eat, it's how much" mentality. So many people believe that if they stay inside, they're safe from UV rays and skin cancer. But this is not true!
UVA and UVB rays can still enter indoors—especially if you live in an older building with windows that let some light in. Even brief moments in the sun still add up over time, so even if you're only outside for a few minutes each day (or less), those minutes are adding up.
You're at risk for squamous cell cancer just as much when outdoors as when inside! The same thing goes for melanoma: both types occur on top of your skin and usually form large tumors called moles or growths; however these are often misdiagnosed as anything else due to their different appearance.
Myth #7: Using a tanning bed is safer
The amount of UV radiation in tanning beds is generally low, but it's still harmful. So even if you don't get a tan from using a tanning bed and burn yourself (which is highly unlikely), your skin may still be damaged.
It's also important to note that there's no such thing as "safe" indoor tanning—even if you're only exposed to 10% as much UV as natural sunlight, that's still hundreds more than what your body can handle! It's also possible for melanoma to develop after just one exposure; so even if someone has never had any other symptoms associated with their cancers, they could still be at risk if they continue going into these rooms often enough.
Myth #8: Melanoma appears dark in color
If you have a mole or wart that's irregular in shape, it may be melanoma. The only way to be sure is by looking at your skin under a microscope. Melanomas can sometimes appear dark in color. They can also appear red, pink or even colorless (if they're not irritated by sun exposure).
Even though they often look like moles and warts on the surface of our skin—and are sometimes lumpy or raised—melanoma cells don't live there anymore! These cells are living deep within the body's tissue layer where they grow rapidly over time until they form large masses called tumors that invade adjacent areas of healthy tissue causing painless irritation due to friction caused when rubbing against clothing or bedding during sleep at night.
Myth #9: It’s easy to treat melanoma
Another important myth that needs debunking is the myth that says it’s easy to treat melanoma. Think of how difficult it is to treat other forms of cancer – skin cancer is definitely no different!
Early prevention and diagnosis can help in making treating melanoma easier, especially if you’re aware of the symptoms. But, if left unchecked, it will need some long-term treatment and in worst cases, might even prove to be fatal. Melanoma can spread to the organs like the liver, brain, gastrointestinal tract, and even your bones in its advanced stages. Luckily, they’re easy to spot in their early stages, so remember to get regular check-ups with your doctor!
Myth #10: Sun exposure without sunscreen is needed for vitamin D
Feeling the warm rays of the sun on your bare skin may feel great, but it actually does more harm than good! It may lead to your body producing vitamin D, but you only need 10 minutes in the morning sun for your daily dose.
Any time after 10am may lead to damage and increases the risk of you getting skin cancer. You also still need to apply sunscreen even in the morning sun to minimize any potential damage your skin might get. If you’re looking to get vitamin D, it’s recommended that you get it from food sources like fish, eggs, and other vegetables. Not only do you get to stay inside, you get to eat a delicious meal, too!
In the end, it’s important to remember that your skin is your body’s first line of defense against the sun. While it may seem like a simple thing to wear sunscreen or put on protective clothing before leaving your home, it’s one step farther from potentially getting skin cancer.