The truth behind 5 common skin cancer myths
With the longer evenings, warmer weather and summer holidays just around the corner, it is a time to celebrate the season outdoors. And, although our bodies may be getting vitamin D in the sun, it is essential to protect ourselves against skin cancer.
Every year, more than 15,000 new cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed in the UK, making melanoma the fifth most common cancer, accounting for 4% of all new cancer cases. It is estimated that 2,000 people a year die of skin cancer.
These statistics are shocking, and the majority of melanoma cases can be prevented. Dr Conal Perrett, one of London Medical Concierge’s medical specialists, outlines common skin cancer myths which we all need to forget about
- I only need to get checked for skin cancer if I notice a “weird” mole: This is true but only to some extent. Self-examination and surveillance of moles is incredibly important when detecting skin cancer. However, only 20-40% of melanomas occur in a pre-existing mole. Non-pigmented growths on the skin that become tender or irritated, bleed or will not heal may also be warning signs. In addition, a yearly full body skin examination by a board-certified dermatologist can help detect skin cancers earlier and in hard to see places on the body.
- I have darker skin and rarely get sunburnt, making me less likely to get skin cancer: Everyone is at risk of skin cancer regardless of your colour. Tans are the skin’s attempt to repair itself from UV damage, so if you have a tan, you have sustained skin cell damage. Skin cancer is also deadlier in people with dark skin because it’s often detected at a later and more developed stage.
- Your face needs the most protection: You must wear suncream across your whole body to make sure you are fully protected against UV rays. You can also use sunglasses and a hat to ensure your face is properly covered. According to Cancer Research UK, nearly 40% of cases of malignant melanoma occur on the legs, almost 20% are found on the torso area, and less than 15%occur on the face and neck.
- You don’t need to wear suncream on a cloudy day: It is a common myth that you can’t get sunburnt on a cloudy day however, this is simply not the case. Even under clouds, it is possible for the sun to harm your skin and eyes and cause long-term damage. So you must still apply a high UV suncream.
- I am having treatment for cancer already, so don’t need to worry about skin cancer: Undergoing treatment for one type of cancer will not make you immune to other cancers and you must still protect yourself accordingly. Certain cancer treatments, such as radiation, can actually increase your sensitivity to UV rays and these effects can last after treatment ends. If you are currently receiving treatment, talk to your doctor to see if you need to take special care of your skin and what products they recommend.