Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, making it important for all Australians to be educated on skin cancer and how it can be prevented. Unfortunately, there are a number of skin cancer myths that can cause confusion and lead to people putting themselves at unnecessary risk. Below, we debunk 13 of the biggest myths to help you sort fact from fiction and keep yourself safe.
Suntanning is definitely damaging to the skin. However, you also get exposed to harmful UV radiation in your day-to-day activities all the time, such as when you go out for a walk in the park or playing cricket with kids. People who work outdoors are much more likely to sustain damage to their skin. Overexposure can happen even on a cool day, as our bodies cannot feel UV radiation. All incidents of excessive exposure to UV rays increase chances of developing skin cancer.
It is true that people with darker completion are better protected from UV radiation. However, it is still quite possible for them to receive sufficient levels of harmful UV rays to sustain permanent damage to their skin cell’s DNA and increase chances of developing skin cancer. Everyone, regardless of skin colour and type, should take necessary precautions when going outside.
Even at low UV levels, only a short period of time every day is enough to get vitamin D. This is normally achieved through simple everyday activities such as waiting for a train or going to buy yourself lunch. If you live in a part of Australia where UV levels are very low, then you may want to spend a little more time outside. People with very dark skin may also need to spend more time outside. Excessive exposure to sunlight will damage your skin and increase the chances of skin cancer development.
Our skin cannot feel UV radiation. It can be quite high on cool or windy summer days. UV rays can also penetrate some clouds, so sunburn can occur on overcast days. Many people mistakenly think that if there is no heat or strong sunlight, you cannot get burned, but this is not true. Sunburn is caused by UV radiation, not heat. It is important to be aware of the UV levels. These days, it is extremely easy to do so by downloading SunSmart or another similar application on your smart phone.
There is no safe way of tanning. When skin tans, it means that its cells respond to the damage done by the UV radiation. The DNA in the skin cells can be damaged even if there is no peeling or redness. Every time the damage is done to skin cells, the chances of developing skin cancer increase. Therefore, even people who tan easily should use sun protection.
If you apply sunscreen only when you are already outside, chances are your skin has already been exposed to harmful UV radiation. On very hot days sunscreen could melt off and not be properly absorbed by skin if applied outside. It is always best to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen 50+ about 30 minutes before going out.
You can get sunburned through a car window, especially untinted one. Even though glass reduces the UV radiation penetrating through it, excessive amounts can still get through. Driving with windows up and applying sunscreen will give you much better chance of reducing the amount of UV rays damaging your skin.
Sunbeds produce significantly more UV radiation than the sun, in fact more than 3 times. Research shows that those who use sunbeds before 35 years of age have a 35% increased chance of developing melanoma. Every session in a solarium damages your skin and can make it coarse and wrinkled. Sunbeds are definitely not a safe way of getting a tan. In fact, there is no safe way of tanning at all.
This is one of the biggest skin cancer myths. Self-checking your skin regularly is really important and necessary. However, it is not always easy to notice new or changing spots. Some changes are very subtle. You must also keep in mind that a lot of skin areas are hard to reach to have a closer look. Skin cancer treatment can be very invasive in some situations, especially if not detected early. It should not be taken lightly. It is prudent to have regular checks with a qualified medical practitioner so any suspicious moles can be identified and removed early.
Many people pay a lot of attention to their face and neck but may forget to adequately protect the rest of the body. Even though the face and neck may be the most exposed, the rest of your body can get sunburned and develop skin damage as well. Please remember, if you are getting suntanned, it means that your body is responding to an excessive amount of UV radiation. Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen on all exposed areas is important.
Fake tan darkens your skin, but that colour provides no protection against UV rays. Some fake tans contain a sunscreen as part of the formula. In that case, it would act as a normal sunscreen and would only provide a limited protection, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. It would have to be reapplied continuously or a normal sunscreen would need to be reapplied.
Cosmetics and moisturisers very often do not contain any sun protection formula at all. They are generally not made to be relied on as sun protection products. In that case, normal sunscreen should be applied prior. Only those products that contain SPF30+ or higher provide adequate protection for a period of time. You should read the instructions carefully to find out how long the protection lasts and reapply sunscreen regularly to avoid skin damage.
Only broad-spectrum sunscreens protect from both UVA and UVB rays. It is necessary to have broad-spectrum protection because UVA radiation causes skin to age and UVB radiation burns skin. Overexposure to these rays may increase the risk of developing skin cancer. It is also important to check the expiration date of your sunscreen, as it may become less effective past this date.
If you have concerns about skin cancer after reading the skin cancer myths above, make an appointment with Mole Check Clinic for a comprehensive skin cancer check or mole map. Our skin cancer clinic can help put your mind at ease and educate you on how to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. Contact us today to make an appointment by calling 1800 665 324.