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4 Skin Cancer Myths, Busted

About 10,000 people in the U.S. will die this year from a preventable disease called skin cancer. People usually apply sunscreen, wear a hat, and avoid the scorching sun. Regardless of these practices, about 3.5 million people are diagnosed with basal and squamous cell skin cancer in the U.S. every year. In 2015, more than 73,000 people will be affected by melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Out of those many people, 10,000 people will die.

So, are these practices good enough to prevent you from skin cancer? These practices are a real life-saver. However, people tend to believe certain myths which prevent them from taking a good care of their skin. This summer, let’s take charge of our skin health by breaking some harmful myths about skin cancer.

Myth 1: Putting on sunscreen is good enough:

Everyone is aware of these basic preventive measures such as applying sunscreen, wearing a hat and avoiding the sun. However, very few are aware of the fact that sunscreen should be applied every two hours. This is necessary even when you are not sweating off the sunscreen or taking a dip in the pool. In fact, this is true for sweat-proof formulas also. According to dermatologists, people either do not reapply enough or fail to use sufficient sunscreen.

The American Cancer Society recommends a palmful of sunscreen on each area of skin which is not under any protection. This means one palmful sunscreen for your face, one palmful for your right hand, one palmful for your left hand and so on.

Moreover, SPF number does not have any significance. SPF or sun protection factor determines to what extent the sunscreen will be able to deflect UVB rays. For instance, SPF 30 will provide a little more protection than SPF 15, and not two times more protection. So, the number appears to be senseless if you apply it in a proper manner.

Thus, when you are shopping for the sunscreen, take a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen that will prevent you from both UVA and UVB rays, rather than depending on SPF number.

Myth 2: A bad sunburn is the “red flag” for skin cancer:

Some skin areas that are prone to sun damage are not easily evident to you. So, it is better to ask your dentist, hairdresser, optometrist and gynecologist to report if they detect any weird spots. Moreover, keep an eye on your nail beds while they are bare as skin cancers can arise under fingernails also.

During such examinations, you can look out for any kind of change in your skin. So, check out the symptoms of skin cancer and if you observe any such changes in your skin, then consult a physician or dermatologist. It can also be a false alarm so do not arrive at any conclusions before consulting a doctor.

Myth 3: People with dark skin do not need sun protection:

Regardless of the skin colour, skin cancer can affect anyone who goes out in the sun without protection. In fact, skin cancer is more prevalent among minority populations. The groups of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Hispanics are more likely to develop skin cancer. However, African Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders are at a lower risk as compared to them.

Though melanoma is less likely to affect minority populations, the disease is more lethal for them due to late detection. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the five-year melanoma survival rate for an African American individual is only 75 percent, but for a Caucasian individial, the survival rate is 93 percent.

Minority groups display different skin cancer symptoms than populations who are considered white. For instance, melanomas in minority populations develop on the unexposed skin with little pigment. Moreover, 60 to 75 percent of the tumors arise on palms, soles, mucous membrane and nail regions.

Myth 4: Skin cancer affects everyone equally:

It is true that anyone can get skin cancer, but cancer risk varies for both men and women. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer risk for women has increased from 5.5 cases per 10,000 people in 1973 to 13.9 cases per 10,000 people in 2004. However, for men, the skin cancer risk has risen from 4.7 in 1973 to 7.7 in 2004. Thus, women are at a greater risk than men.

Such differences can be due to women spending excessive time in the sun. Beach tanning or tanning beds, both increase the danger of skin cancer among women. Tanning beds are extremely dangerous as they emit ultraviolet rays, which cause melanoma. But further research is required to draw a connection between tanning beds and melanoma.

Since skin cancer disproportionately affects women and minority groups, it is necessary to carry out further research regarding how to protect these populations from hazards of sun exposure.

Take action now:

Regardless of your gender and skin colour, everyone should take appropriate steps to prevent yourself from harmful sun rays:

  1. The sun is extremely strong between 10 a.m. and 4 a.m. So, it is best to stay indoors and avoid sun exposure during these hours.
  2. Buy a broad-spectrum sunscreen and apply it generously to each area of skin. Do not forget to reapply it every two hours.
  3. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
  4. See your doctor or dermatologist annually for a skin examination.

So, follow these simple tips and protect yourself from developing an easily preventable disease.

References:

  1. The American Cancer Society
  2. Understand Sunscreen Options
  3. Cancer Facts & Figures
  4. Medical Daily
  5. Women and Melanoma
  6. Skin Cancer Facts

 

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Tasneem

Tasneem

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