Topics: Skin Cancer
June 5, 2020
In the battle against skin cancer, information is one of the key weapons in your arsenal. With an overwhelming variety of cancer-related articles on the Internet, it's often hard to tell what's real and what isn't.
Let's debunk the most common skin cancer myths and discuss trusted information sources to help you with further research.
Myth 1: Dark-skinned population doesn't suffer from skin cancer.
Truth: People suffer from skin cancer regardless of their skin color. According to a study published by the American Cancer Society in 2019, the 5-year relative survival rate for white patients was 94%. For black patients, it was 66%.
The dark-skinned population doesn't suffer from skin cancer as often as light-skinned people do. However, lack of awareness often leads to late diagnosis, making the survival rate lower. Since the chances of getting skin cancer for dark-skinned individuals is lower, people may not focus on routine screening enough.
This myth is highly dangerous since it can make dark-skinned individuals ignore important health checks. To catch problem areas early, it's vital to perform a full-body inspection monthly.
Myth 2: After eliminating sun exposure, I can stop worrying about skin cancer.
Truth: Sun exposure is only one of several factors that can lead to skin cancer development. The others include:
- Family history – since the chances of developing skin cancer depend on the skin type, if the condition runs in the family, a person may develop it as well. Further research is currently being done to determine which genes may be responsible for increasing the risk of melanoma.
- Other UV-light exposure – it's possible to receive high amounts of UV exposure from tanning beds and occupational equipment. It's important to understand that the culprit isn't the sun. It's UV rays. Anything producing UV rays can be a potential hazard.
It's worth stressing that a tanning bed isn't less dangerous than sun exposure. Your skin receives the exact same UV rays.
Myth 3: Higher sunscreen SPF offers better protection against skin cancer.
Truth: According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the difference between SPF 30 and SPF 100 is very slight. Raising the sun protection factor is often a marketing trick, which gives you a false sense of protection.
In reality, sunscreens with SPF 30 block out 97% of harmful UV rays. SPF 50 protects you against 98% of UV rays. SPF 100 can absorb up to 99% of UV rays.
This myth is highly dangerous because people feel falsely protected against the sun and tend to stay outdoors longer. Even the highest sun protection factor can't keep you 100% safe. The best way to avoid skin cancer is to stay out of the sun or wear protective clothing.
Myth 4: People who rarely get sunburned are at a lower risk of getting cancer.
Truth: A healthy suntan doesn't exist. Even if you tan easily and never get sunburned, you can get skin cancer.
There is some truth in the above-mentioned myth. Skin type is a major component of skin cancer risks. According to the World Health Organization, people with fair skin are at a bigger risk for skin cancer.
However, excessive sun exposure damages your skin even if you don't feel it. No matter what skin type you have, the risk of acquiring skin cancer is always present.
This myth is highly dangerous. People who suntan easily and don't get burned may be spending more time in the sun since they don't feel its effect. This high degree of carelessness can lead to serious consequences.
Even if you don't feel sunburned, you are at risk of getting skin cancer.
Myth 5: If you’re young, you don't need to worry about skin cancer. It affects older people only.
Truth: Skin cancer affects people of all ages. For example, Melanoma is one of the most common cancer types among young adults. The risk of getting skin cancer increases with age. However, it doesn't mean young people are always safe.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority of skin cancer sufferers fall into the 80-84 age group. However, people as young as 15 can acquire skin cancer.
One of the reasons why older people are at a higher risk of getting skin cancer is the cumulative effect of sun exposure. Meanwhile, people with weak immune systems and other risk factors may not need excessive sun exposure to suffer from its consequences.
Myth 6: Sun exposure is less dangerous when the sky is cloudy.
Truth: When the day is cloudy, the sun doesn't go anywhere. It continues to shine above the clouds, sending harmful UV rays to the surface. While cloud cover may reduce sun exposure, it doesn't eliminate it entirely. That's why it's important to maintain the same level of sun protection when it's cloudy outside.
When the sky is fully covered by clouds, sun exposure is lower. However, broken and scattered clouds don't provide much protection.
This myth is highly dangerous because people fail to protect from the sun and forget to wear sunscreen when they see overcast skies. Meanwhile, the reduction in sun exposure due to clouds can be as insignificant as 10%.
Myth 7: Skin cancer appears only on those parts of the body that were exposed to the sun.
Truth: Skin cancer can appear on any part of the body, including feet soles, palms, underneath the fingernails/toenails, and on the genitals. That's why it's important to inspect the entire body for the signs of skin cancer regularly.
Trusted Sources of Information
It's tempting to believe in some of the common myths surrounding skin cancer. However, when it comes to your health, it's important to use trusted sources. If you want to conduct online research, take advantage of the following trusted websites:
- Skin Cancer Foundation
- American Cancer Society
- National Cancer Institute
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
For more information about skin cancer, please contact us today or set up an appointment with an oncologist.