Deadly myths: what you need to stop believing about skin cancer and treatment
Dr. Downie, of image Dermatology in Montclair treats hundreds of skin conditions, both cosmetic and medical. Of them, skin cancer is unquestionably the most dangerous. It nearly always can be treated effectively if detected early, and many cases are preventable. Yet, every year, millions are diagnosed with skin cancer, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths, and countless disfiguring damages.
Why are the numbers so high (and climbing)? The short answer is that many people forego adequate sun protection and cancer checks. They don’t use enough sunscreen, they don’t look at their skin, and they don’t have professional screening often enough. Sadly, many of these people believe they are doing enough, or that they are “safe” from skin cancer for some reason. Despite public awareness campaigns, a frightening number of myths persist. Some of the most common are debunked here.
Myths about skin cancer risk
Fact: Tanning beds produce 12 to 15 times the ultraviolet radiation of the sun and that tanning beds are more damaging than actual sunlight. One exposure to tanning beds increases your chances of getting melanoma by over 70%.
Myth: I don’t need to worry about skin cancer because of my dark complexion.
Fact: Anyone can get skin cancer. No exceptions. Some people have a higher or lower risk, but “zero risk” does not exist.
Myth: I’ll go to a tanning salon because that is safer than a natural suntan.
Fact: UV radiation can lead to deadly skin cancer, regardless of whether the source is sunlight or a lamp. The increasing prevalence of melanoma and other cancers is partially attributed to the development of indoor tanning.
Myths about sun exposure
Myth: A little tan is healthy, just be careful not to burn.
Fact: Your risk of skin cancer increases proportionately with UV (sun) exposure, even if you never burn. Excess pigment production is one of the body’s natural responses to skin damage. Tanned skin is actually damaged, not healthy.
Myth: I need some sunshine, or I’ll be vitamin D deficient.
Fact: The average American gets plenty of vitamin D via fortified foods such as milk and many juices. Additionally, sunscreen doesn’t completely block UV rays, so you’re still getting enough to stimulate vitamin D production. There are also oral supplements available in the rare event that a person actually is deficient.
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Myths about sunscreen
Fact: According to the skin cancer foundation, 77% of the suns rays penetrate through the clouds on a cloudy day. SPF levels out after about a 50 so an SPF of 100 is basically the same as an SPF 50. It protects you from roughly 96.5% of the suns rays. There is no 100% protection ever.
Myth: I’m completely safe in the harshest UV rays, because I’m wearing sunblock
Fact: The term “sunblock” is a misnomer. It only filters out a percentage of UV radiation. Depending on the SPF it might filter out about 93 to 96.5% percent of UVB rays, and UVA protection is more difficult to measure.
Myth: I put on sunscreen this morning, so I’m good for the day.
Fact: Chemical sunscreens take time to become completely active, and they “give out” after a while. To be consistently protected, you should apply it liberally at least 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours.
Myth: It’s cloudy today, I don’t need sun protection.
Fact: It might look gloomy outside, but the Skin Cancer Foundation reports that up to 80 percent of harmful UV rays pass through clouds.
Myth: I bought waterproof sunscreen, so I don’t need to reapply it after swimming
Fact: No formula is “waterproof.” Actually, the FDA no longer allows that claim on labels, requiring the term “water resistant” instead.
Myth: This must be the best sunscreen because it has the highest SPF.
Fact: The number rating on sunscreen only tells half the story. SPF measures the relative protection from ultraviolet B rays, which are the primary cause of sunburns and epidermal damage. However, only formulas labeled “broad spectrum” also provide protection from ultraviolet A rays, which penetrate skin and damage the deeper dermal layer. Both can cause cancer and premature aging, so you need complete protection.
Myths about diagnosis and treatment
Myth: That’s just a spot under my nail, it can’t be skin cancer.
Fact: Melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, can develop under the fingernail or toenail. Known as subungual melanoma, this might look like a simple bruise. It can also begin as a type of begin mole or pigment streak, which evolves and becomes cancerous over time.
Myth: Monthly self-checks and yearly skin cancer screenings are redundant.
Fact: Some cancers can closely resemble benign lesions to the untrained eye, so screening by Dr. Downie is essential. On the other hand, some cancers grow very rapidly, and a tumor could advance considerably in the time between appointments. Therefore, diligence and regular-self checks are equally important.
Isn’t it time you take a proactive approach to protecting yourself from skin cancer? If you have any suspicious skin lesions, or if it has been more than 12 months since your last screening, please give us a call at (973) 509-6900 and schedule an appointment.
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