Myth Busters, Skin Cancer
The facts behind sun exposure and your skin cancer risk
Many Australians are well aware that we have a great deal to worry about when it comes to skin cancer. Sunburns account for 95% of all melanoma cases, something that's concerning when according to Cancer Council Australia, 1 out of every 8 adults (and 1 out of 5 teens) are sunburnt on an average summer weekend. But equally worth discussing are the things people think they know about skin cancer. In this post, we'll debunk the seven most common skin cancer myths that people need to know.
Above: Types of skin cancer squamous cell carcinoma
Myth 1: All skin cancer is created equally
The first major skin cancer myth needs to be debunked as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, it is also one of the deadliest. The fact of the matter is that all skin cancers are not the same. Assuming they are can lead to devastating health consequences in the future if you’re not careful.
Melanoma, for example, is widely recognised as the deadliest form of skin cancer for Australians in particular — but it is also the least common to actually be diagnosed with.
Basal cell carcinoma, on the other hand, is the most common form of skin cancer in Australia — but it’s also the slowest-moving, making it the least deadly.
Squamous cell carcinoma falls decidedly between those two points.
Above: Even on a rainy, cloudy day you can get sunburnt.
Myth 2: You can’t get sunburn if it’s cloudy outside
This is another exceptionally false myth. People don’t realise that sunburn is caused by UV (ultraviolet) rays and radiation, not the temperature outside, which is totally irrelevant to this discussion.
You can get sunburned on a cloudy day, when it is highly windy outside, or even when it is very cold — it actually doesn't matter.
Above: Use enough sunscreen to protect your skin during peak UV times.
Myth 3: Too much sunscreen will cause a vitamin D deficiency
For some strange reason, many Australians often choose to go without sunscreen on a sunny day out of fear that it will prevent them from getting enough Vitamin D in their bodies.
This line of thinking is almost the exact opposite of reality. When the UV levels are at roughly 3+ (as they often are in Australia), you can get enough Vitamin D for a day in just a couple of minutes of being outside.
Because of this, it is absolutely critical that you use enough sunscreen to protect your skin during peak UV times — no matter what. If UV levels are at or around -3, then excessive protection isn’t explicitly required. But, you still need to be mindful about what you do (and for how long you do it) outdoors without protection.
If you absolutely believe that you’re at an increased risk of a Vitamin D deficiency for one or more reasons, you should see a medical professional to discuss the situation further.
Above: Even if you are wearing make up wear sunscreen as well - sunscreen will always be more reliable for sun protection over make-up.
Myth 4: Make-up is all the protection I need
Obviously, this is one of those myths prevalent in women. Unless the foundation you’re using has an SPF rating of at least 30 or higher, it will not provide sufficient protection from the harmful radiation of the sun. There is absolutely no arguing with this fact.
Even if it does, you would still need to apply it every two hours throughout the day for continued protection. The fact is sunscreen will always be more reliable for sun protection over make-up.
Above: Apply sunscreen regularly to provide sustained protection.
Myth 5: "I applied sunscreen this morning, so i’m good to go"
Similar in concept to SPF 30+ make-up products, it is imperative that you keep in mind that even the best sunscreen will only provide protection for about two hours at a time.
Applying sunscreen once before you head out just isn’t going to be enough to provide sustained protection. You need to apply sunscreen every two hours, all day long, to make sure that you stay safe.
Myth 6: Sunscreen isn’t actually safe to use in the first place
This myth is shockingly common in Australia and has been for years — but it is a myth just the same. In reality, only very young children (think: babies that are less than six months old) and those with very, very sensitive skin are likely to experience issues with sunscreen.
The truth is that the ingredients used in sunscreen are very strictly regulated by the TGA. The types of nanoparticles that many people are concerned with have not, at any point, been proven to be harmful. Do not let this stop you from applying sunscreen before you head out for an afternoon in the sun.
Above: Even if you are resting on the beach for a little while to get a tan, you are still at risk.
Myth 7: "As long as I don’t get burned, I have nothing to worry about"
Finally, we arrive at the idea that you don't have to worry about skin cancer as long as you don't get sunburned. Again, this is one of those common and dangerous myths that needs to be shattered for all time.
Even if you’re just going for a walk (or resting on the beach for a little while to get a tan), you are still at risk. This has always been true, and it always will be.
What we refer to as tanning is caused by the same UV rays that quickly lead to sunburn and, ultimately, skin cancer. Tanning is maybe more adequately described as the process your body uses to try to protect you from the sun. It’s one of the signs that your body uses to show you that your skin cells are in trauma.
The types of unintentional tans that develop over time (like when you go for a walk around the block) are typically seen as incidental damage but can still culminate in a heightened risk of skin cancer if you’re not careful.
Above: A regular skin and mole check can help prevent skin cancer.
MoleMap: Your source for skin cancer detection
Even if you’re only facing what you think might be one of the major symptoms of skin cancer, this is still not a situation that you should take lightly. Skin cancer is something that will affect more than two-thirds of the Australian population over their lifetimes. As such, the actions you take today will always be the key to guaranteeing your safety tomorrow.
To find out more about the most common skin cancer myths that far too many people still believe, or to discuss your own health concerns with someone in a little more detail, contact MoleMap today. You can also use our website to fill out our risk assessment calculator to get an accurate indication of your own challenges moving forward.
Note: This quick questionnaire is designed to give you an idea of your personal skin cancer risk factors.
It isn’t intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis – please contact us if you have any questions about your skin cancer risk.
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