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Skin Cancer Myths vs. Facts

Skin cancer awareness and prevention have come a long way, but there are still harmful myths surrounding the disease. It can affect anyone, regardless of your age, ethnicity, and sun exposure. The best way to prevent skin cancer is to protect your skin and know the facts from the myths.

Myth: You can’t die from skin cancer.

Fact: Unfortunately, skin cancer can be deadly. Approximately 12,000 Americans die each year from melanoma and other skin cancers. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. If it isn’t treated early, it can quickly spread to other organs.

Myth: Skin cancer only happens to people with lighter skin.

Fact: Those with fair skin have a higher risk of developing skin cancer—especially if they have freckles, blue or green eyes, and blond, red, or light brown hair. However, skin cancer can also develop in people with darker skin. It is often diagnosed later in people who have darker skin because it can be harder to detect.

Regardless of your skin color or ethnicity, you should get annual skin cancer screenings with your doctor and practice sun safety.

Myth: Only sun exposure can cause skin cancer.

Fact: UV rays from the sun are the main cause of skin cancer, but there are other causes. Having a family history of skin cancer, getting UV radiation from tanning beds or other equipment, having a weakened immune system, and aging can lead to skin cancer.

Myth: The sun can’t damage your skin during the winter or if it’s overcast.

Fact: Even when it’s cloudy or chilly, the sun is constantly producing UV rays that harm your skin. UV light is the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but you can be exposed to UV rays any time it’s light outside. Even brief sun exposures can add up to significant damage over time for people with light skin.

Myth: If you tan easily, you won’t get skin cancer.

Fact: There’s no such thing as a healthy suntan. Any change in the natural color of your skin is a sign of skin damage. Frequent tanning increases your risk of developing skin cancer—as well as early wrinkles and other skin problems.

Myth: Tanning beds are safer than being in the sun.

Fact: Some people believe tanning beds are a safe alternative to sun tanning, however, the ultraviolet (UV) rays in a tanning bed can sometimes be even stronger. People who use tanning beds have an increased risk of developing skin cancer, especially melanoma.

Myth: You only need to apply sunscreen once each day to protect your skin.

Fact: Sunscreen is one of the best defenses against the sun’s harmful rays, but it’s a myth that one application protects you for a whole day. If you’ve been swimming or sweating, it’s time to reapply. If you’re using water-resistant sunscreen, reapply every 40-80 minutes. Don’t forget SPF on your lips. Hats, sunglasses, and tightly woven clothing also help protect you from the sun.

Myth: The higher the SPF, the better.

Fact: A high SPF gives you some extra protection, but not a complete block. SPF 30 absorbs 97% of the sun’s rays, while SPF 50 absorbs 98%, and SPF 100 absorbs 99%. The best way to protect your skin is to stay out of the sun—especially during peak hours. If you must be in the sun, wear clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible.

Skin Cancer Prevention Tips

  • Stay in the shade when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses with 100% UV lenses, and clothes with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) up to 50.
  • Choose at least SPF 30 sunscreen and apply generously every two hours. Apply more often if you’ve been swimming or sweating.
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe each month.
  • Every year, get a professional skin exam.
  • Check your skin monthly using the ABC guide:
    • Asymmetry- The two sides of the mole look different from one another.
    • Border- The mole has a jagged, crooked, or irregular border.
    • Color- The mole has multiple colors.
    • Diameter- The mole is the size of a pencil eraser or larger.
    • Evolution- The mole has changed.

Be proactive when it comes to your skin care. Schedule your skin cancer screening today.