Three Skin Cancer Myths

Merely Me Health Guide
  • There are a lot of misconceptions about skin cancer and skin cancer prevention  that we would like to put to rest. We will talk about three of these skin cancer myths today.


    Myth # 1: Sunscreen will give you 100% protection from sun damage and skin cancer


    The reality is that nothing can protect you 100% of the time from getting skin cancer, not even sunscreen. Yet sunscreen is one extremely important tool in how we protect our skin from sun damage and skin cancer.

    There are ways to use sunscreen which will maximize the level of protection you get from using sunscreen and they include:

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    • If you plan on going out put your sunscreen on thirty minutes prior to any sun exposure.


    The Skin Cancer Foundation  recommends that you use a sunscreen with an SPF of fifteen or higher. A sunscreen with an SPF of 15 screens 93 percent of the sun’s UVB rays and a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 protects against 97 percent.


    • You can’t apply sunscreen just once and stay out all day and expect to be protected. You have to reapply sunscreen every two hours for it to be the most effective. Factors like sweating, swimming, showers, and high humidity can cause your sunscreen to wear off. Some of the sunscreens out there are water resistant but there aren’t any that are totally waterproof.


    • Make sure you cover all exposed skin including ear lobes, hands, the tops of your feet or other easily missed places. If you are wearing a bathing suit you want to make sure to put sunscreen under your straps or waistband as your bathing suit can move as you are active or swimming.


    For more information about how to choose an effective sunscreen please visit our Sunscreen Information Page.



    Myth # 2: People having darker skin do not have to worry about skin cancer.


    This is absolutely false. People who are Asian, African American, or Hispanic are also susceptible to getting skin cancer. In fact, according to a report in the December 2009 issue of Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals, Hispanic and African American patients are routinely diagnosed with skin cancer at more advanced stages than whites. The problem is that many people who have darker skin are not having their doctor do skin checks for skin cancer and by the time they do go in to have a suspicious lesion looked at, it is a much more serious problem.


    Here are some things to know about skin cancer if you have darker skin:


    The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that the overall melanoma survival rate for African Americans is only 77 percent compared to 91 percent for Caucasians. Again, this is because the melanoma is not being detected until it is too late.


    • While melanoma is uncommon in African Americans, Latinos, and Asians, it is frequently fatal for these populations.


    • There is one type of melanoma which is responsible for up to 50% of all melanomas in dark skin. This type of melanoma is called Acral Lentiginous Melanoma. or ALM.


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    • Acral Lentiginous Melanoma (ALM) is sometimes hard to detect as it may start off just looking like a bruise or a streak on your nail. Other parts of the body where ALM is likely to occur include: The palms of the hand, fingers, the soles of the feet, toes, underneath nails and on mucous membranes such as those that line the nose and mouth. In my article, “Celebrities Get Skin Cancer Too” I discussed how reggae performer, Bob Marley discovered this type of skin cancer on his foot but died because the cancer had already spread to other parts of his body.



    Myth # 3: Getting a tan from a tanning bed is harmless.


    Nothing could be further from the truth and now there is more and more research to show that getting a tan from a tanning bed can dramatically increase your risk for developing skin cancer.


    Here are some more facts you should know:


    • The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a working group of the World Health Organization, cited research to show that if you are using tanning beds before the age of thirty, you are upping your risk for melanoma by 75%.


    • The irreversible skin damage from tanning beds may include: Brown spots, loss of skin elasticity, sagging, wrinkles, and other signs of skin aging.


    • All you have to do is look at many of the questions we get on My Skin Care Connection and Skin Cancer Connection about tanning beds to know that many people experience a bad reaction to tanning beds ranging from rashes and burns, to symptoms of sun poisoning. The majority of skin care experts will tell you that the use of a tanning bed is not worth the potential risks and especially since there are far safer ways to tan such as using self tanner lotions.


    For more information about the potential dangers of tanning beds please read these Health Central articles:


    Does Getting a Base Tan from a Tanning Bed Protect Your Skin from Sun Damage?


    That Tanning Bed Moment Can Turn Into “Eye Opening Burn 

    The Dangers of Tanning Beds: Five Fast Facts


    If you have any questions about skin cancer, please do consult with your doctor. You may also find information, resources, and support on Health Central’s Skin Cancer Connection.

Published On: May 10, 2010