Skin cancer is the most common of all types of cancer. Nearly one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, causes nearly 20 Americans to die every day. As May is National Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month, it’s important to debunk some common skin cancer misconceptions.
Myth: Having a base tan will prevent sunburns.
- UV exposure causes your skin to increase its melanin production, which leads to a darker skin tone. This process is a natural defense mechanism as a result of sun damage. There is no such thing as a healthy tan.
Myth: Indoor tanning is a safe alternative to UV exposure from the sun.
- Tanning beds produce UVA and UVB light. UV exposure from any source can lead to skin damage, wrinkles, aging, and skin cancer.
Myth: Clouds will protect from the sun’s UV rays.
- Up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate through the cloud.
Myth: I need sun exposure to get vitamin D.
- You can maintain adequate levels of this essential nutrient from supplements or foods that are either naturally contain Vitamin D or are fortified with it.
Myth: The higher the SPF the better.
- SPF protection doesn’t increase proportionately with the designated SPF number. SPF 30 absorbs 97% of the sun’s burning UV rays, while SPF 50 absorbs around 98% and SPF 100 absorbs 99%. A sunscreen with at least a SPF of 30 is recommended.
Fortunately, exposure to UV light is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer. It’s important to seek shade, especially from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., when the UV index is at its highest. Wearing a broad- spectrum (UVA and UVB coverage), water- resistant SPF of 30 or higher is recommended and should be reapplied every two hours and after swimming/sweating. Sun protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses with UV protection should also be worn when possible. Lastly, regular total body skin exams and exams using the ABCDE criteria (Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, and Evolving) can result in early skin cancer detection.
Get yourself checked today!