Educating yourself about skincare and skin cancer is the best thing you can do for yourself in the fight against skin cancer. As Twin Cities residents, we may think that we don’t get enough sun exposure to worry too much about skin cancer. But no matter where you live, there are things you should know about skin cancer to help reduce your risk.
Unfortunately, there are many myths that some people assume are true. Here we will take a look at some of the most common myths about skin cancer and what you can do to make sure you don't unnecessarily expose your skin.
Myth 1: People of color can't get skin cancer
Truth: Anybody can get skin cancer regardless of the color of their skin. You can even get skin cancer if you have never had a sunburn. Unfortunately, oftentimes when people of color detect skin cancer, it is late stage. This is why it's incredibly important to do self-exams and notify your doctor of any changes right away.
Myth 2: Reducing sun exposure means you can stop worrying about skin cancer
Truth: Sun exposure is only one of the many risk factors that come into play when it comes to your chances of developing skin cancer. Other factors can include:
- Family history – You are more likely to develop skin cancer if someone in your family has been diagnosed. It's important to know your family history.
- Other UV-light exposure – UV rays are especially damaging to the skin and cause skin cancer. Tanning beds, for example, emit UV light, and lying in them can greatly enhance your risk of skin cancer.
While it's certainly important to protect your skin from the sun, it's important that you know that there are other factors to keep in mind as well.
Myth 3: Higher sunscreen SPF offers better protection against skin cancer
Truth: You may assume that you have nothing to worry about if you wear a higher level of SPF for your skin. However, the difference between SPF levels and how well they protect your skin from UV rays is very slight.
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. And they will only be effective if reapplied every 2 hours or after going in the water. It can be easy to forget to apply that often when you have a whole day of outdoor activities.
Don't assume that you're completely protected simply because you wear a higher level of SPF. You should take other precautions to protect your skin, such as sitting in the shade and wearing a hat.
Myth 4: If you never get a sunburn, then you don't have to worry about skin cancer
Truth: Even if you have never been sunburned once in your life, you can still get skin cancer. It's important to note that even people who usually tan easily are still exposing their skin to harmful UV rays. Excessive sun exposure is never safe or healthy, and it's important that no matter how well your skin tolerates the sun, you should still protect yourself.
Myth 5: Only older people are impacted by skin cancer
Truth: 1 in 5 Americans will receive a skin cancer diagnosis by the age of 70. While it's true that the risk of getting skin cancer increases with age, young people are also being diagnosed. THis is in part due to better screening and more awareness, but it’s also related to increased UV ray exposure. Melanoma especially is on the rise among young adults under 30.
Myth 6: Sun exposure isn't dangerous on a cloudy day
Truth: It's true that when the sky is covered with clouds, then the sun exposure is lower. However, the sun is still very much present behind the clouds, and UV rays can still reach your skin. Sometimes, people assume that they don't even need sunscreen on cloudy days, but this is not true. There are regular breaks in clouds, and the sun will penetrate your skin. Never skip your sunscreen, and always be careful to seek shade even on cloudy days.
Myth 7: Skin cancer appears only on those parts of the body that were exposed to the sun
Truth: Skin cancer can impact every single part of your body. Every nook and cranny is a potential place for skin cancer to develop, and that is why it's so important to get skin checks every year and to make sure that you're doing your self-exams regularly. Look at places that might not see the sun like the soles of your feet and your nail beds.
Trusted Sources of Information on Skin Cancer
There is a lot of misinformation buzzing around, but it's important that you don't fall victim to believing these myths. You must be diligent when it comes to protecting your skin and your health. For more information, check out these resources:
- Skin Cancer Foundation
- American Cancer Society
- National Cancer Institute
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer – melanoma or nonmelanoma – one of our skin cancer specialists can help you through the process of treatment and guidance on how to help prevent it from returning.