Deadly Myths About Skin Cancer

sun and clouds in orange sky

Sadly, myths and misunderstandings can be commonplace in our information-filled world, especially when it comes to a disease like skin cancer. Many people are unaware of its dangers, and they may be underestimating their risks. Below we bust some common myths about this very common form of cancer so that you can be in the know – and protect your health.  

Myth: Skin cancers aren’t deadly.
Fact: Unfortunately, skin cancer can be deadly indeed. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 9,000 people are expected to lose their life to melanoma this year alone. Other types of skin cancer can also be deadly, so skin cancer is something that should be taken very seriously. No matter your age, it’s a good idea to examine your skin regularly and to protect your skin whenever you are in the sun. If you’re at high risk for skin cancer, consider having a dermatologist examine your skin as well.

Myth: Using an indoor tanning bed doesn’t expose you to the same kinds of harmful rays as the sun.
Fact: UV rays, the type of light rays that have been shown to increase your risk for skin cancer, aren’t just in sunlight. Tanning beds use lights containing UV rays too, and those rays are just as harmful to your skin. The truth is there is no “safe” way to get a tan when UV light is used. Exposing your skin to this type of light, no matter the source, can increase your chances of facing skin cancer.

Myth: Putting on sunscreen before you go out in the sun is enough to protect your skin.
Fact: Sunscreen is one tool you can use to help protect your skin, but you shouldn’t count on it as your only tool. No sunscreen is 100% effective at blocking UV rays, and if sunscreen is used incorrectly, it may not provide as much protection as you think.  You should use about an ounce of sunscreen (roughly a palm full) to cover your arms, legs, and face, and reapply often, especially if you are sweating or swimming. Make sure you choose a sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” with SPF of 30 or more. In addition to using sunscreen, it’s a good idea to reduce your UV exposure by seeking shade and wearing protective clothing to cover your arms and legs, a hat to protect the skin on your head and neck, and sunglasses to protect your eyes and the delicate skin around them.

Myth: I’m already in treatment for cancer, so I don’t need to worry about skin cancer.
Fact: Treatment for one type of cancer does not make you immune to other cancers. In fact, certain cancer treatments, such as radiation, can actually increase your sensitivity to UV rays, and these effects can last well after treatment ends. If you’re currently in treatment, talk to your doctor to see if you need to take special care of your skin because of your treatments.  He or she can recommend sun protection products or other strategies for keeping your sensitive skin safe.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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