May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, which means we’re shedding light on some of the most important things you need to know about skin cancer. As experts in the field of skin issues, one of our most critical jobs at Florida Dermatology & Skin Cancer Centers is debunking false information. That’s why the focus of our blog today is uncovering the truth behind the most pervasive falsehoods we hear about skin.
Keep reading to learn the truth behind eight common skin cancer myths.
1. Skin Cancer Only Affects Light-Skinned People
False – while people with fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes are at higher risk of developing skin cancer, people of all skin colors are at risk. This dangerous skin cancer myth often causes people with darker skin to get checked less often, leading to a diagnosis delay until the cancer is more advanced. Per the Skin Cancer Association, the estimated five-year melanoma survival rate for Black people is only 67 percent, versus 92 percent for whites.
2. Cancer Only Develops on Sun-Exposed Areas of Skin
False – skin cancer can develop on any area of the body. In fact, melanomas in Black people, Asians, and native Hawaiians most commonly occur on non-exposed areas of skin, including the palms, soles, mucous membranes, and nails. When you’re performing a skin self-check at home, it’s crucial that you check all areas of your skin for unusual growths, including oft-hidden places like the scalp, behind the ears, soles of the feet, nails, between fingers and toes, and genital regions. If you can’t visualize an area – like the scalp – enlist the help of a trusted friend or significant other to check for you.
3. Frequent Sun Exposure Is the Only Cause of Skin Cancer
False – while sun exposure is the most common cause of skin cancer, it’s not the only cause. Tanning beds and lamps, family history, genetics, age, and immune system disorders can also increase your risk for developing skin cancer. Additionally, the frequency of sun exposure may not play as large a role as you think it does. Even if you don’t participate in many outdoor activities, years of sun exposure from driving a car, sitting near windows, and walking around outside can add up to significant exposure.
4. A High-SPF Sunscreen Will Provide Adequate Protection
False – while wearing sunscreen is an important protective measure against the sun’s harmful rays, SPF isn’t the only factor to consider. No level of SPF can block 100% of the sun’s rays. SPF 30 blocks approximately 97% of rays, and higher SPFs block only slightly more. And SPF is only one of many factors that are important when it comes to applying sunscreen. Along with choosing a sunscreen with minimum SPF 30, you should:
- Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen
- Apply enough (1 oz for body, ½ teaspoon for face)
- Reapply every few hours
- Apply every single day
- Pair with other protective measures like umbrellas, clothing, hats, and sunglasses
5. Sunscreen Isn’t Necessary When the Sun Isn’t Out
False – the sun’s ultraviolet rays can penetrate cloud coverage and harm your skin even on the cloudiest of days. Sunscreen is necessary year-round, including on rainy days, overcast days, and cold, wintry days. Keep in mind that the sun’s rays reflect off water, sand, and snow, so wearing sunscreen is extra important when you’ll be near those elements. Try to stay inside or under shade during the peak times when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are strongest (10 a.m. – 4 p.m. EST).
6. Tanning Beds Are Safer Than Going Outside
False – tanning beds are just as dangerous as sunlight exposure. Like natural sunlight, tanning beds and tanning lamps expose your skin to dangerous ultraviolet radiation. Not only that, but indoor tanning devices can emit UV rays in amounts 10-15 times higher than the sun at peak intensity. Per the Skin Cancer Association, more people develop skin cancer from indoor tanning than develop lung cancer from smoking.
7. People Who Tan Have a Lower Risk of Developing Cancer
False – natural suntans are never healthy. In fact, a tan is a sign of sun damage. Any time your skin changes color due to sun exposure, you’re at a higher risk of developing sun-related skin damage like cancer.
8. Skin Cancer Is Less Dangerous Than Other Types of Cancer
False – skin cancer is dangerous and sometimes deadly and should be taken extremely seriously. It’s true that basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are highly treatable if identified and diagnosed early. However, any type of skin cancer can cause significant and permanent tissue and cell damage. Additionally, SCC can become deadly if it spreads to other parts of the body. Melanoma can be an extremely dangerous cancer. It spreads faster and more aggressively than other types of skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Association predicts that melanoma will be responsible for 7,180 deaths in 2021.
Visit FLDSCC for Your Skin Cancer Screening
You can help prevent skin cancer by practicing good sun safety, routinely performing self-checks and scheduling annual examinations with your dermatologist.
Let’s work together to debunk skin cancer myths and protect the health of your skin. Recognize Skin Cancer Awareness Month by scheduling a skin exam with Florida Dermatology and Skin Cancer Centers. We have multiple convenient clinic locations in Florida – find the one nearest you and call today for an appointment.