It is almost May, which is Skin Cancer Awareness month. Why is this important? As the sun gains strength and the weather becomes warmer, May’s Skin Cancer Awareness message reminds us to protect our skin from the harmful effects of the sun. While most of us crave the warmth of brighter days—it is vital to enjoy it safely.
Skin cancer is the uncontrolled, irregular growth of abnormal skin cells that multiply rapidly. If left unaddressed, these cancer cells can spread from the skin to other tissues. There are many different types of skin cancer – all of which are exasperated by sun exposure. In fact, the three most common types of skin cancers – basal cell, squamous cell, melanoma – are related to cumulative sun exposure. Unfortunately, there are many misunderstandings about appropriate skin protection and care. Here are some of the most common myths:
1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Don’t be the 1.
MYTH: I keep an eye on my skin and look for new or unusual spots, so I don’t need to see a doctor.
TRUTH: Skin cancers can be very difficult to identify, especially to the untrained eye. They can look red, black, brown, crusty, rough, waxy, scaly and firm. Detecting skin cancer in its earlier stages greatly increases the likelihood of survival. Therefore, annual visits to your dermatologist are crucial. Your dermatologist will examine your skin, in spots that are difficult to examine on your own, to make sure your freckles, moles or other marks haven’t changed.
MYTH: Tanning booths are safer than the sun because they only emit UVA rays and not the UVB rays that cause your skin to burn.
TRUTH: The UVA rays emitted from tanning beds are actually more damaging to your deeper dermal skin layers, creating wrinkles and increasing your risk of skin cancer by 75%.
MYTH: Sunscreen prevents me from absorbing Vitamin D naturally from the sun.
TRUTH: Although many of us are Vitamin D deficient, unprotected sun exposure is not the answer. It is far safer and sufficient to get Vitamin C from vitamin supplements and/or fortified foods, such as milk, yogurt, and fatty fish.
MYTH: Makeup and facial moisturizers with SPF are enough protection.
TRUTH: These combination products can be sufficient in minimal exposure environments, like the home or the office. However, any outdoor activity requires more protection and frequent application – at least every two hours. Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen to render themselves protected to the numerical amount printed on the bottle.
MYTH: Waterproof sunscreen will keep my skin protected after being in the water.
TRUTH: Waterproof sunscreen will protect you while in the water, but much of it is rubbed off over time, and certainly after towel-drying, so you must reapply to remain protected.
MYTH: The chemicals in sunscreen are bad for me.
TRUTH: While the chemicals in some sunscreens can be irritating to those with sensitive skin, there are many non-chemical sunscreen options, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, that do not irritate the skin.
MYTH: I never burn and always tan, so I’m not at risk for skin cancer.
TRUTH: Completely false. Skin cancer can occur in all skin types, so whether or not you burn is irrelevant.
Since many skin cancers develop rapidly and can be fatal, it is imperative to catch skin cancer early. Since most skin cancers are visible and detectable to the trained eye, faithfully visiting an experienced dermatologist for a thorough skin exam is critical. Board-certified dermatologist Board Certified Dermatologist Dr. Ciro Martins and Physician’s Assistant Caroline Harvey specialize in the detection, prevention, and treatment of skin cancer at Belcara Health Dermatology.