Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of all cancers and ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the number-one cause of skin cancer. UV light from tanning beds is just as harmful. Exposure to sunlight during the winter months puts you at the same risk as exposure during the summertime because UVA rays are present in daylight.
A number of myths and misunderstandings surround a disease like skin cancer. Many people are unaware of its dangers, and underestimate the risks.
Below we bust ten common myths about this very common form of cancer so that you can be in the know – and protect your health.
Myth 1: Skin cancers aren’t deadly.
Fact: False, skin cancer can be deadly. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 9,000 people are expected to lose their life to melanoma this year alone. Other types of skin cancer can also be deadly, so skin cancer is something that should be taken very seriously. No matter your age, it’s a good idea to examine your skin regularly and to protect your skin whenever you are in the sun. If you’re at high risk for skin cancer, consider having a dermatologist examine your skin as well.
Myth 2: Using an indoor tanning bed doesn’t expose you to the same kinds of harmful rays as the sun.
Fact: UV rays, the type of light rays that have been shown to increase your risk for skin cancer, aren’t just in sunlight. Tanning beds use lights containing UV rays too, and those rays are just as harmful to your skin. The truth is there is no “safe” way to get a tan when UV light is used. Frequent tanners using new high-pressure sunlamps may receive as much as 12 times the annual ultraviolet A (UVA) dose they receive from sun exposure Exposing your skin to this type of light, can increase your chances of facing skin cancer.
Myth 3: Putting on sunscreen before you go out in the sun is enough to protect your skin.
Fact: Sunscreen is one tool you can use to help protect your skin, but you shouldn’t count on it as your only tool. No sunscreen is 100% effective at blocking UV rays, and if sunscreen is not used correctly, it may not provide as much protection as you think. You should use about an ounce of sunscreen (roughly a palm full) 20 min before going out in the sun, to cover your arms, legs, and face, and reapply often, especially if you are sweating or swimming. Make sure you choose a sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” with SPF of 30 or more. In addition to using sunscreen, it’s a good idea to reduce your UV exposure by seeking shade and wearing protective clothing to cover your arms and legs, a hat to protect the skin on your head and neck, and sunglasses to protect your eyes and the delicate skin around them. Besides, SPFs mainly measure UVB protection. Individuals applying high-SPF sunscreens may not burn (UVB is the chief cause of sunburn), but without UVA-screening ingredients they can still receive large amounts of skin-damaging radiation. Sunscreens with both UVA and UVB protection are mostly labeled multi spectrum, broad spectrum, or UVA/UVB protection.
Myth 4: I’m already in treatment for cancer, so I don’t need to worry about skin cancer.
Fact: Treatment for one type of cancer does not make you immune to other cancers. In fact, certain cancer treatments, such as radiation, can actually increase your sensitivity to UV rays, and these effects can last well after treatment ends. If you’re currently in treatment, talk to your doctor to see if you need to take special care of your skin because of your treatments. He or she can recommend sun protection products or other strategies for keeping your sensitive skin safe.
Myth 5: If your foundation contain sunscreen you do not need to use sunscreen.
Fact: Even in case foundation, you should wear sunscreen prior to makeup, if you’re going to be in the sun.
Foundations and moisturizers that contain sunscreen are fine if you are outside for short periods such as a quick trip to the shops at lunchtime. However if you need to spend periods of time in the sun use a separate sunscreen and reapply it every two hours, not just once in the morning. Be aware that most cosmetic products offer protection that is much lower than the maximum recommended SPF30 or higher.
Myth 6: Sun damage is only temporary caused in form of sun burn. The skin quickly repairs itself. By “resting” the skin between sun exposures or staying indoor, the damage is erased.
Fact: The skin can repair some of the superficial damage. That’s why a sunburn lasts only a few days. But the underlying damage remains. Over the years, with each successive exposure to the sun, the damage accumulates. The results may not be apparent for 20 to 30 years. Cumulative sun exposure causes mainly basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer, while episodes of severe sunburns, usually before age 18, can contribute to developing melanoma.
Myth 7: Children need a strong dose of natural sunlight to maintain good health.
Fact: Some studies have found that between five and 30 minutes of sun exposure to your unprotected face, arms, legs or back between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. two to three times every week is enough for the body to produce all the D3 it needs [source: National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements]. There is no doubt that sunlight, helps make vitamin D in the skin. Besides, most scientists agree that alternate sources of vitamin D in fortified foods, such as dairy products, are just as effective and should be looked upon. Increasing your sun exposure beyond the recommended level does not increase your vitamin D.
Myth 8: It is easy to treat skin cancer.
Fact: Luckily, the majority of skin cancers — mostly those known as basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas — are easily treated with local therapies including cryotherapy (freezing) or surgery. Melanomas are a different story. More than three-fourths of skin cancer deaths come from this very serious type of cancer. Skin cancer treatment can be more serious than having a lesion ‘burnt off’. It can include surgery, chemotherapy and can result in permanent scarring. Skin cancer can also metastasise and spread to other parts of your body. Be alert for any new moles or changes to existing moles and consult your GP immediately if you notice anything concerning. And remember prevention is always better than cure.
Myth 9: A funny-looking or suspicious mole, is not a serious concern and your doctor can always cut it off before it turns cancerous.
Fact: Sometimes what people may perceive as an annoying sore that won’t go away – or a mole that has changed in size or color – is really something more serious and possibly an early form of skin cancer. Since only a physician can determine whether an area of the skin is cancerous, a visit to a dermatologic surgeon should be scheduled if any abnormal moles are discovered. An annual skin cancer screening is necessary to identify cancer in its early stages. The five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads is almost 100 percent.
Myth 10: “Superfoods” can prevent cancer
Fact: Blueberries, beetroot, broccoli, garlic, green tea… the list goes on. Research has shown that consumption of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of skin cancer, but cannot prevent it completely. . “Superfood” is a marketing term used to sell products and has no scientific basis. Some foods are clearly healthier than others. The odd blueberry or mug of green tea certainly could be part of a healthy, balanced diet. Stocking up on fruits and vegetables is a great idea, and eating a range of different vegetables is helpful too, but the specific vegetables you choose doesn’t really matter. Our bodies are complex and cancer is too, so it’s gross oversimplification to say that any one food, on its own, could have a major influence over your chance of developing cancer.
Accumulation of evidence over several decades points to a simple, but not very newsworthy fact that the best way to reduce your risk of cancer is by a series of long-term healthy behaviour such as not smoking, keeping active, keeping a healthy body weight and cutting back on alcohol.