Did you know that there are more new cases of skin cancer in the United States than lung, breast, colon, and prostate cancer combined? One in five Americans will develop skin cancer throughout their life and the incidence is on the rise. To help avoid getting skin cancer, it is important to dispel some common misconceptions.
MYTH #1– I won’t get skin cancer because I only tan and never burn.
Although having darker skin does offer some protection from ultraviolet light, no one is immune to the damaging effects of the sun. A tan actually reflects sun damaged skin. In addition, dark skinned individuals are more at risk for a certain types of fast growing melanoma skin cancers.
MYTH #2- You don’t need sunscreen on cloudy days.
This is simply not true! Up to 80% of UV light can penetrate clouds and fog. According to the US National Weather Service, partly cloudy skies can actually INCREASE UV energy by reflecting and focusing it which can lead to 25% more UV light than on a clear day. Best practice is to wear sunscreen every day.
MYTH #3- Only old people get skin cancer so kids and teenagers don’t need to worry.
Melanoma is actually the most common form of cancer in 25-39 year olds and is rapidly increasing in women ages 15-29. 23% of lifetime sun exposure occurs by the time you are 18.
MYTH #4- Using a tanning salon is safer than tanning outdoors since it’s “controlled radiation”.
When compared with people who never tanned indoors, salon tanner have a higher risk of all form of skin cancer. Tanning lamp radiation is a high dose and may receive up to 12 times the annual UVA dose leading to cancer and photodamage.
MYTH #5- I use a sunscreen with SPF 50, so I’m protected.
A sunscreen’s SPF indicates protection against UVB rays, but you need protection from UVA and UVB. For effective protection, apply a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen and be sure to reapply often when swimming and sweating.
If you have never had a skin exam now is a great time to start! At Sand Lake Dermatology Center we provide comprehensive skin cancer screenings and treatment. Although we treat thousands of skin cancers each year, we are committed to providing individualized treatment and care with your best interest in mind.
By Theresa Helsel, MPAS, PA-C
* These myths were busted with the help of information presented from the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society.